School Prayer Law and Legal Definition

Because of the constitutional concerns regarding separation of church and state, the issue of school prayer is a controversial one. However, there is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.

School districts must allow religious speech on the same terms as they allow other speech. Therefore, students have the same right to engage in individual or group prayer and religious discussion during the school day as they do to engage in other comparable activities. A public school may not suppress or exclude private student speech for the sole reason that the speech contains a religious perspective. Although public school officials may not promote or initiate student prayer or require unwilling students to participate in prayer, they may support and give official recognition to this nation's collective religious heritage without risking a violation of the Establishment Clause.