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Religious Freedom in Schools

Updated on January 30, 2015

We Still Have Freedom of Religion in School

In America, we have freedom of religion. We also have freedom of speech. While many courts decisions have gone various ways, the law remains the same, and it should not be forgotten. These rights are for ALL Americans...even the ones under age 18...and they don't go away when they cross onto public school property.

It is important that we, and our students, understand what is allowed (and what is not) in respect to religion and expressing religious beliefs in school. Students of faith (any faith) should be aware that they can practice their beliefs within the school, so they do not allow over-cautious adults suppress their freedoms.

(Photo by soylentgreen23)

Religious Freedom Day - January 16

Faith Has Not Been Expelled From Schools

Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion Extend to Students

Students in school, yes public school, are allowed to pray. They are allowed to talk and share their religion with other students. They are allowed to arrange meetings in order to do so. They are allowed to read their holy texts. They are even allowed to be excused from class in order to preform religious activities (such as Muslim students praying during Ramadan).

Here are some excerpts from Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools which is posted on a the Department of Education's website (ed.gov):

  • Students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."
  • Students may pray when not engaged in school activities or instruction, subject to the same rules designed to prevent material disruption of the educational program that are applied to other privately initiated expressive activities.
  • Students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray or study religious materials with fellow students during recess, the lunch hour, or other noninstructional time to the same extent that they may engage in nonreligious activities.
  • Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, and "see you at the pole" gatherings before school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other non-curricular student activities groups. Such groups must be given the same access to school facilities for assembling as is given to other non-curricular groups, without discrimination because of the religious content of their expression.
  • Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions.
  • Where students or other private graduation speakers are selected on the basis of genuinely neutral, evenhanded criteria and retain primary control over the content of their expression, however, that expression is not attributable to the school and therefore may not be restricted because of its religious (or anti-religious) content.
  • Teachers may meet with other teachers for prayer or Bible study to the same extent that they may engage in other conversation or nonreligious activities.

View Barack Obama's

Presidential Proclamation of Religious Freedom Day 2012

Religious Freedom and the Constitution

Religious Freedom and the Constitution
Religious Freedom and the Constitution

From one of America's most distinguished moral philosophers, a sweeping historically based argument that equal respect for all citizens is the bedrock of America's tradition of religious freedom.

In one of the great triumphs of the colonial and Revolutionary periods, the founders of the future United States overcame religious intolerance in favor of a constitutional order dedicated to fair treatment for people's deeply held conscientious beliefs. It granted equal liberty of conscience to all and took a firm stand against religious establishment. This respect for religious difference, acclaimed scholar Martha Nussbaum writes, formed our democracy.

 

Your Opinion:

Do you believe we truly have Freedom of Religion in public schools?

Quote

"Public schools can neither foster religion nor preclude it. Our public schools must treat religion with fairness and respect and vigorously protect religious expression as well as the freedom of conscience of all other students. In so doing our public schools reaffirm the First Amendment and enrich the lives of their students".

---Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley June 1998

Freedom of Religion

does not mean

Freedom From Religion!

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    • PastorKay profile imageAUTHOR

      Pastor Kay 

      6 years ago

      @norma-holt: Where do I get the view that it should be obvious that Americans (and even children are Americans) have the freedom of religion? The first amendment to the Constitution. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ..." Therefore, you cannot stop a student from praying, from reading a religious text of their choice, from talking to their friends about God. That would be "prohibiting the free exercise thereof". I am not suggesting that the school lead the prayer, but that they allow it. Where do you get your view on "rightful place" - religion is a life choice, not an hour in a pretty building once a week. Equal to a student's right to pray, is a student's right not to pray. Equal to a student's right to read a Bible is a student's choice not to.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 

      6 years ago

      @PastorKay: I am sorry that you took this comment to mean that I am angry because I am not. People do what they have to do, The point I am making is that schools should be a place for learning and not religion, You state that these things are obvious to you but where do you get that view from? Where do the kids get their religious view from? It's all about relevancy and things being in their rightful place in a democracy where religion is for some but not others.

    • PastorKay profile imageAUTHOR

      Pastor Kay 

      6 years ago

      @norma-holt: I can only assume that you didn't read this page at all, but instead scrolled straight down to post and angry and anti-religious opinion that you hold. There is nothing here about "hammering kids with religion". This page explains the rights students have to practice the religion they already believe in and to share it with their peers in student led activities. I don't see how you can relate the freedom of religion we have to the lack of freedom of religion in certain Muslim schools. As for adding modules asking people of their view on this subject, I don't really care to engage in debate about whether we should have freedom of religion. To me that is obvious.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 

      6 years ago

      As a spiritual person there is no need to hammer kids with religion. My connection with God is within and is always there to be asked for help or advice. No need for man made prayers and mythology. Also kids don't need to be brainwashed and forced into boxes that segregate and demand things which are unnatural, such as what happens in Moslem schools and patriarchal organisations that think women are not good enough to be part of the spiritual side of God should be barred from preaching. Perhaps you should put up some modules for people's views on where they stand with this subject. Good lens, however, and nicely broached subject.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      We are still a people that will strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. I've never gotten the prayer issue because anyone can pray at anytime and a public display is not essential to prayer. Most of the time I pray with my eyes open with no special posture and am in normal conversation with God either silently or verbally.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Well-written lens.

    • profile image

      ivchisholm 

      7 years ago

      Good lens! Lensrolled you on 'read-our-constitution'

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 

      8 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      Finally! Someone who gets that prayer is still allowed in school. They just stopped led prayers or required prayers in public school. Prayers led by school staff are not a good idea in a country with a great diversity of faiths but individual children praying or getting together and praying is an entirely different thing. That allows for freedom of religion while led prayers do not.

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