Last updated on: 10/5/2007 | Author:

Should School-Sponsored Prayer Be Allowed in Public Schools?

PRO (yes)


Justice Potter Stewart, in his 1962 dissenting opinion in Engel v. Vitale, stated:

“For we deal here not with the establishment of a state church, which would, of course, be constitutionally impermissible, but with whether school children who want to begin their day by joining in prayer must be prohibited from doing so. Moreover, I think that the Court’s task, in this as in all areas of constitutional adjudication, is not responsibly aided by the uncritical invocation of metaphors like the ‘wall of separation,’ a phrase nowhere to be found in the Constitution. What is relevant to the issue here is not the history of an established church in sixteenth century England or in eighteenth century America, but the history of the religious traditions of our people, reflected in countless practices of the institutions and officials of our government.”



Elizabeth Ridenour, Founder and President of The National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools, wrote in the Feb. 2001 American Family Association Journal that:

“Our Founding Fathers never intended for the Bible to be removed from our public schools…

Former U. S. Chief Justice Warren Berger said that the Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state. It mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions and forbids hostility toward any.

While there are educators who serve their communities in truth and fairness, due to misunderstanding and misinterpretation, many have assisted in the denial of the Constitutional rights of students and teachers.”

Feb. 2001


Billy Graham, Founder and Chairman of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, was quoted in the June 18, 1963 New York Times as having said:

“Eighty percent of the American people want Bible readings and Prayer in the schools…Why should the majority be so severely penalized by the protests of a handful?”

June 18, 1963


Gary Bergel, President of Intercessors for America, wrote in a May 1988 article for his organization that:

“America’s moral decline rapidly accelerated following one event – the U.S. Supreme Court’s removal of prayer from our nation’s schools. On June 25, 1962, 39 million students were forbidden to do what they and their predecessors had been doing since the founding of our nation – publicly calling upon the name of the Lord at the beginning of each school day…

The removal of prayer from our schools was a violation of the third commandment which commands us ‘not to take the name of the Lord in vain.’ By the judicial act of forbidding invocation, the Court audaciously elevated a secularized system of education beyond the authority, reach and blessing of God Himself. Worse than taking the Lord’s sacred name in vain is treating it with contempt, denying it rightful place and stripping it from public use and even from the lips of children. Jesus’ own expressed desire, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them’ was also violated by these judges, many of whom were raised in Christian homes…

After more than 25 years of severe moral decline is it not time to repent, reverence the name of the Lord, reinstitute and keep the third commandment?”

May 1988

CON (no)


The American Civil Liberties Union stated in its 1996 paper titled “Constitutional Amendment on School Prayer or Moment of Silence,” posted on its website, that:

“Opposition to school-sponsored prayer is a bedrock principle for the American Civil Liberties Union. As national board policy #81(a) states in part: ‘The ACLU believes that any program of religious indoctrination — direct or indirect — in the public schools or by use of public resources is a violation of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state and must be opposed.'”



In Engel v. Vitale (1962), the US Supreme Court, in a decision written by Justice Black, held that:

“The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say that the people’s religious must not be subjected to the pressures of government for change each time a new political administration is elected to office. Under that Amendment’s prohibition against governmental establishment of religion, as reinforced by the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, government in this country, be it state or federal, is without power to prescribe by law any particular form of prayer which is to be used as an official prayer in carrying on any program of governmentally sponsored religious activity.”

1962 -

Engel v. Vitale


The American Baptist Church USA (ABCUSA) in its “American Baptist Resolution in Support of Historic Baptist Principles Against State Mandated Prayer,” said:

Baptists, both historically and presently, believe that religious faith must involve a vital encounter between persons and God, and no religious form should be substituted for this encounter…

Therefore, the General Board of the American Baptist Churches USA:

  • Reaffirms our historic Baptist belief that religion should not be mandated and that prayers and religious practices should not be established or prescribed by law or by public policy or officials;
  • Supports the Supreme Court decision on prayer in the public schools and recognizes that it does not prohibit the free exercise of religion while sustaining the liberty of a free conscience;
  • Opposes any attempt through legislation or other means to circumvent the decision of the Supreme Court on mandated prayer in the public schools.”
  • 1998


    Freedom From Religion Foundation stated in a 1995 article titled “The Case Against School Prayer,” written by its co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor, that:

    “By definition, if the government suggests that students pray, whether by penning the prayer, asking them to vote whether to pray or setting aside time to pray, it is endorsing and promoting that prayer. It is coercive for schools to schedule worship as an official part of the school day, school sports or activities, or to use prayer to formalize graduation ceremonies.”