Public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize. Religion is private,
and schools are public, so it is appropriate that the two should not mix.
Our public schools are for all children, whether Catholic, Baptist, Quaker,
atheist, Buddhist, Jewish, agnostic. The schools are supported by all
taxpayers, and therefore should be free of religious observances. When
religion has invaded our public school system, it has singled out the lone
Jewish student, the class Unitarian or agnostic, the children in the minority.
Individual, silent, personal prayer never has and never could be
outlawed in public schools. It is dishonest to call any prayer "voluntary"
that is encouraged or required by a public official or legislature. 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 doesn't seem
right 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. Such prayers are more "mandatory" than "voluntary."
At the time the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 1962 and 1963 decrees
against school-sponsored prayers and bible-reading, it is estimated
religious observances were unknown in about half of the nation's public
schools. For nearly half a century, the United States Supreme Court,
consistent with this nation's history of secular schools, has ruled against
religious indoctrination through schools (McCollum v. Board of Education,
1948), prayers and devotionals in public schools (Engel v. Vitale, 1962) and
prayers and bible-reading (Abington School District v. Schempp, 1963),
right up through the 1992 Weisman decision against prayers at public
school commencements and Santa Fe v. Doe (2000) barring student-led
prayers at public school events .