Religion and Schools

The First Amendment guarantees religious liberty. It allows observance of one’s religious faith and practices without government interference Jahn (2017). In the First Amendment, we have the Establishment Clause that prohibits the government from endorsing any religion, and this has important effects on religious observance in public schools. As thus, school teachers and management in public schools are thus effectively barred from; 

  • Promoting or imposing a given religion 
  • Promoting religion as a superior approach than secular life
  • Being antagonistic or opposing religion or a particular religion or its beliefs in particular
  • Being antagonistic to secular values, or 
  • Taking actions to advance or inhibit religion

The above restrictions do not effectively imply that religion should not be taught. Religious books are constitutionally allowed for the study of history, ethics, civilization of man, and comparative religion among others as seen in Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39, 42 (1980). The tenets of religion can be used to evaluate history, literature, astronomy, and sciences among other disciplines. The idea is to use religion to promote education and not using religion to promote or inhibit religious beliefs.

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Religion is a particularly complex issues that extends to different elements or operations of the schools. Prayer and Bible-reading is legally wrong in school as evidenced in Engel v. Vitale (1962) and School Dist. V. Schempp (1963) and this extends to meditation or moments of silence. Student led prayers are illegal since they seem as endorsement of religion at official capacities as seen in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe (2000). Student led prayers, even in school activities and competitions such as football games is illegal. Displaying religious messages in schools, for instance, the ten commandments is illegal as evidenced in Stone v. Graham (1980), however, displaying religious symbols and graphics is allowed as long as such symbols and graphics are of educational relevance. 


Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 83 S. Ct. 1560, 10 L. Ed. 2d 844 (1963).

Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 82 S. Ct. 1261, 8 L. Ed. 2d 601 (1962).

Jahn, S. J. (2017). Religious Diversity. Philosophical and Political Dimensions. Entangled Religions, 4, 45-53.

Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 120 S. Ct. 2266, 147 L. Ed. 2d 295 (2000).Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39, 101 S. Ct. 192, 66 L. Ed. 2d 199 (1980).

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