Tags: School Prayer | school prayer | Arizona | lawsuits

Notable Lawsuits Over School Prayer in Arizona

By    |   Tuesday, 23 June 2015 12:23 AM

School prayer continues to be a point of contention in Arizona.

In 2014, the Mesa Public Schools reinstated prayer at the beginning of school board meetings. According to The Arizona Republic, the Freedom from Religion Foundation tried to use its influence to encourage the school district to refrain from the prayers, calling the act unconstitutional. The group has threatened to take the district to court over the matter.

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An attorney for the organization, Andrew Seidel, told the newspaper, “Organized prayer in schools is unconstitutional. We are thinking very seriously about going to court over this. And if we go to court, we will win.”

Arizona allows school vouchers to be used for religiously sponsored education through its Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account program. The program has received criticism from some who say the use of public money to support religious or private schools violates the state's constitution, according to The Associated Press. Arizona courts have upheld the program, saying because parents have choice in how to spend the money, the program is not illegal.

According to the Center for Arizona Policy, Arizona school children are protected by a 2009 Students’ Religious Liberties Act, which outlined the rights students have for religious expression in the classroom or school setting. The bill allows students to answer assignments with religious beliefs or art without fear of penalty. Students may also of their own volition pray and read their Bibles during free time on school grounds. Bible studies, religious literature and clothing are also protected.

The rights in Arizona generally do not extend any further than those decided by the United States Supreme Court. The Engel v. Vitale Case in New York forbids public schools from requiring prayer at the beginning of each school day. Abington Township School District v. Schempp restricted the daily recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Americans United for Separation of Church and State points out that neither of these cases restricted student-initiated expressions of their own faith or prayer. The study of religion for cultural or historical purposes has also been held as a constitutional educational practice.

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School prayer continues to be a point of contention in Arizona.
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Tuesday, 23 June 2015 12:23 AM
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