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Pros and Cons of Prayer in School

QUESTION: What are the pros and cons of prayer in school?


Below you will see the pros and cons of prayer in school.

Those who favor the return of prayer to public schools argue:
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has replaced freedom of religion,” guaranteed by the Constitution, for freedom from religion. To ban school prayer diminishes the religious freedom of students who would like to pray and forces them to act according to the dictates of a non-religious minority.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has misinterpreted the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. A simple and voluntary school prayer does not amount to the government establishing a religion, any more than do other practices common in the U.S. such as the employment of Congressional chaplains or government recognition of holidays with religious significance and National Days of Prayer.

  • School prayer would result in many societal benefits. The public school system is tragically disintegrating as evidenced by the rise in school shootings, increasing drug use, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, and HIV transmission. School prayer can help combat these issues, would instill a sense of morality and is desperately needed to protect our children.

  • School prayer would address the needs of the whole person. Schools must do more than train children’s minds academically. They must also nurture their souls and reinforce the values taught at home and in the community.

  • School prayer would allow religious students an opportunity to observe their religious beliefs during the school day. The U.S. Supreme Court has urged school cooperation with religious authorities for “it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs.”
Frequently heard arguments against prayer in public school are:
  • School prayer violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which provides that government shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion. Because public schools are government funded, prayer led by school officials or incorporated into the school routine amounts to government-established religion.

  • School prayer violates the “separation of church and state.”

  • Public schools are intended for education, not religious observance or proselytization.

  • Prayer is school is already legal. Students are already allowed to pray on a voluntary basis (in a non-disruptive way) so formal school prayer is unnecessary.

  • School prayer may lead to intolerance. Public prayer will highlight religious differences of which students may have been unaware. Those students who abstain from school prayer may be ostracized.

  • School prayer is inherently coercive and cannot be implemented in a way that is truly voluntary.

  • The public school system is created for all students and supported by all taxpayers. It should therefore remain neutral on religious issues over which students and taxpayers will differ.

  • Since no formal school prayer could honor the tenets of all the religions practiced in the U.S., as well as various denominational differences, prayer is better left in the home and religious institution of the individual student’s choice. A related argument is that school prayer usurps the role of parents and religious institutions who desire to provide instruction in keeping with their own beliefs.
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