(NewsBreakDaily.com) – “Bring prayer back to schools.” On any given day, Americans can find statements and memes such as this one spreading across social media. And in times of national crisis, those with religious beliefs find great comfort in the idea of group prayer and religion in schools. Many feel that God has been taken out of the school system, but only because religious freedom has been poorly explained nationwide.
First Amendment Explained
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The truth of the matter is that God was never taken out of schools. The First Amendment, as mentioned above, guarantees Americans the right to express their religious freedom, even in school. However, public schools have to place restrictions on staff in order to uphold and enforce the First Amendment all at the same time.
Establishing a Religion
“…establishment of religion…”
This portion of the First Amendment means anyone can establish any religion at any given time. This prevents Americans from being forced to follow any one religion or particular denomination. The idea was to prevent anything like the Catholic/Protestant conflict that resulted in numerous instances of torture and death during the time of the Inquisition, for instance.
If an American wants to worship a potato and develop a religion designed just for that, it’s covered by the First Amendment. And, as long as the proper IRS documents are filed, they can even qualify for relief from tax burdens. Since only adults can be legally bound to contracts, only adults can formalize a religion. This includes college students who can promote their religions on campus if promotion of other non-religious activities is allowed. However, school staff in public universities may not promote or disparage any religion in their official capacities.
Prayer In Schools
“…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Religious schools funded by private means rather than through government programs may promote and offer prayer as part of their normal programs. However, in order to qualify for some public funds, public schools not only have to avoid promoting specific religions or religious activities but they also have to have a system in place that guarantees they are following this protocol.
Section 8524(a) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) outlines these guidelines and requirements. Local Educational Agencies (LEA) who meet the guidelines, including certification, may qualify for funds under this act.
Essentially, this act prevents educational leaders from demanding or infringing on the reasonable expression of religious freedom. In other words, they can’t lead prayers, but they can’t prevent them either… as long as the prayer or any other religious expression does not disrupt instruction time. The exception to this rule is when instruction time puts an undue burden on religious expression. This may be the case in religions that require prayer at a specific time of day.
Educational leaders of public schools are never allowed to lead, promote or condemn religions in any way. Yet, they cannot stand in the way of students who wish to lead or participate in religious expression. In the same token, schools must allow the promotion of religious activities by students, the same abilities afforded to other extra-curricular activities. In other words, if one student wishes to hold a religious meeting on school grounds and another wishes to hold a book club meeting on school grounds, both groups are afforded the same ability to advertise through school papers and flyers. However, the school may deny access to school grounds for any activity which might cause harm or place an undue burden on the school.
It isn’t just religion that’s the responsibility of American parents, but knowledge of the Constitution. Schools may not be leading prayers, but they can’t deny them either. Many American parents teach their children to promote personal beliefs via protests and other means but might forget to teach them to do the same with religion.
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