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Prayer In Public Schools

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In 1782, the United States Congress passed the following resolution: “The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.” (#) However, school prayer and scripture readings, are a thing of the past in our public schools today. Through a number of court cases, over several decades, the meaning of the First Amendment has slowly been changed, and as a result, school prayer has been removed from the United States public education system.

In 1962, The New York public school system endorsed a school prayer that was said before the start of classes every day. The prayer was bland and denominational. Justice Hugo Black ruled that the Regent’s prayer was inconsistent with the purposes of the Establishment Clause in the court case of Engel v. Vitale, 1962. The ruling did not completely stop school-prayer. Voluntary prayer was still allowed, but the regent style prayer was prohibited.

The Murray v. Curlett, 1963, case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court after it went through local courts. Madalyn Murray O’Hair, an atheist, sued the school board of Baltimore on behalf of her son, William J. Murray, because he was being forced to participate in prayers at school. The petition was dismissed in the local court by Judge J. Gilbert Pendergast. After that it went to the Maryland Court of Appeals, then, made its way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in favor of abolishing school prayer and Bible readings in the public schools. This Supreme Court ruling favored atheism as a religion.

In Pennsylvania, the public school systems adhered to the state law which required that ten Bible verses were to be read every day. Students were allowed to be excused from the readings if they chose. The case of Abington Township School District v. Schemp, 1963 went to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that the daily Bible readings were violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and were put to an end.

More recently it was ruled that school officials cannot attempt to persuade or compel students to participate in prayer or any other religious activities. Lee v. Weisman, 1992. The



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