Prayers before public school board meeting unconstitutional
As it turned out, prayers were almost always Christian. Two families challenged the prayers as a violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition against government establishment of religion. Students were often present at the school board meetings as student government representatives, and academic and sports team members.
Consequently, the school board meetings were akin to other school events such as graduation ceremonies. The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 (Lee v. Weisman) that school-sponsored prayer having a coercive effect on students is unconstitutional.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals concluded it’s ruling* in Delaware’s case by quoting the 1962 Supreme Court decision in Engel v. Vitale: “It is neither sacrilegious nor anti-religious to say that each separate government in this country should stay out of the business of writing or sanctioning official prayers and leave that purely religious function to the people themselves.” This decision affects Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania – the jurisdiction of the Third Circuit.
Find out more about prayer in public schools.
*Doe v. Indian River School District (Third Circuit Court of Appeals, 2011)