Prayer in School: Should we reinstate classroom prayers?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Prayer in School
Praying Young Man in Stained Glass Window

TEACHING THE YOUNG TO PRAY? For centuries in the West, teaching young men and women Christian prayer was a widespread goal of educational institutions. Change came only after legal challenges from religious minorities, reminding American leaders of the nation’s growing religious diversity.

Were you required to participate in school prayers? If you’re old enough, and lived in certain areas of the country, you might have. It used to be standard practice.

Public school administrators nationwide know that officially sponsored prayers (or other officially organized religious practices) are considered unconstitutional. The U.S. Department of Education maintains an online overview of the rules, which haven’t changed in decades. The current web version of the rules was posted in 2003, back when George W. Bush was president.

Still, a new Gallup poll is sparking fresh debate nationwide, raising the question: Could a case be made for prayer in schools? In recent days, commentators in conservative publications like the Washington Times have cited the Gallup report as fresh food for thought.

WHAT GALLUP FOUND: About six of ten Americans (61%) support allowing daily prayers to be spoken aloud in the classroom, according to the new poll. This actually represents a gradual decline in support for school prayer. In 1999, 70% of Americans supported the practice. Support was 68% in 2000, and 66% in early 2001.

Protestants are much more likely than Catholics to support daily prayer in the classroom, according to Gallup. Today, more than three of four Protestants (77%) favor the practice, compared to 57% of Catholics. Only a third (35%) of Americans with no religious preference support daily prayers in the classroom.

Not surprisingly, Americans who attend church every week are much more likely to support daily prayers in school. Over eight of ten (82%) frequent church goers support school prayer. Among those who seldom go to church, 49% are in favor of daily prayers at school.

Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to support the practice of daily school prayers. Eight of ten (80%) Republicans would allow it, compared to 45% of Democrats.

While officially sanctioned prayers are banned, students can still pray if they want to. The prayers just can’t be officially authorized or sponsored, and the practice cannot disrupt other students from doing their work.

Did you participate in officially sponsored prayers at school?
Would it be beneficial to reinstate school prayers?
Are there certain circumstances in which you would allow prayers at school?

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  1. Debra Darvick says

    My grade school memories are of being hazed, harassed, goaded and threatened because I was Jewish.
    I can only imagine what like would have been like had I not known the words to the Our Father or had
    I been challenged to recite what I am sure my tormentors would have called “a Jew prayer.” Low point of second grade was the Monday after Easter when a classmate pushed me in the hall and accused me of killing Jesus. The wall between “church” and state in our public schools should remain. Its mortar might be strengthened if people studied our Constitution better and realized that America was founded by many fleeing religious persecution. Possibly the tenor of my co-religiounists would have been different today, but religious prayer, officially sanctioned by school administrators, has no place in school.

    • Dennis Crouch says

      Debra Darvick, I’m sorry that a fellow student accused you of killing Jesus. But, that could have happened in school or on the street. The wall between “church and state” that you speak of will not prevent others from disagreeing with you. Interestingly, when my wife was a young girl a neighborhood friend who was Catholic called her “a lost sheep” because she was Protestant and not Catholic. It hurt her just as the incident hurt you. To me, this is a case of education and understanding other views. To bury those views is not an answer to any problem. It only festers and increases the problem. I believe education is the better answer. However, if faith can’t be discussed no answers will be gained to such issues.

  2. Dennis Crouch says

    I believe children should be allowed to pray in school. To not allow prayer as our nation has done is saying there is something wrong with prayer and that a higher being to whom prayer is received is a “wrong concept.” What is a child to think when he/she is told that cannot pray in school. Children will and have gained a negative view of religion or “faith” with “thou shall not” guidance from our leaders. Our children, for the most part, look up to our teachers and accept what they say even though they may not understand why. Our nation continues to ask what happened to civility? Or, why are there more crimes or why is sexual perversion on the rise? My faith would deny me from committing such sins, although at the same time I realize I am not sin free and never will be. But the fact is my faith would act to discourage and ultimately prevent me from sinning. Do you think our children are better off for denying a creator or faith? I would submit that the answer is a resounding no!