Do any public schools still have prayer?

I went to public high school from 1983-1987. The school had the moment of silent meditation after the announcements were read. Our band director led a Christian prayer every day.

Does any public school in the United States still have any sort of prayer?

Two words. Finals Week.
Group prayer? I don’t think so, but the Earths crust was still warm when I graduated. Class of 1975.

To my knowledge, none do officially, but many public schools allow student prayer groups that meet before or after the official school day. The shooter at Heath High School in Kentuckytargeted a prayer group, although that may have just been the first bunch of students he encountered.

There is a meme (and I’m trying to keep this GQ, not GD in content) which seems to have been disseminated by the Religious Right to the effect that it is illegal for anyone to pray in public schools. That would itself be a violation of the Free Exercise clause.

What is illegal, and has been since Engel v. Vitale was handed down in 1962, is for a teacher, principal, superintendent, or school board to (a) mandate a standard prayer, (b) require prayer, © put students in situations where they would feel coerced into praying. These are considered violations of the Establishment Clause.

That said, many school boards, etc., don’t seem to be getting the message.

Some Say Schools Giving Muslims Special Treatment [at George Mason U., U. Michigan-Dearborn, et al.] :: Campus Watch In Dearborn we have a large contingent of Muslims. They pray a lot(5 times a day). If we allow Christians to pray in school, how about Muslims. What about other religions. The answer is easy, no prayer in public schools. No exceptions. Otherwise you open a can of worms that may go where you do not want to go.

This is GQ. At the risk of going towards GD, are you saying that the First Amendment ends at the schoolhouse door? (Note that I’m speaking of completely voluntary [in the literal meaning of the word] prayer, with no coercion, no role model or peer pressure, not the sorts of things that people have caused to masquerade as “voluntary” in various court cases.)

The ACLU has defended several students who were disciplined for engaging in Christian prayer against the wishes of confused school authorities. There is no reason to prevent a student from praying to Jesus, Allah, Ha Shem, or Mana-Yood-Sashai on their own time in any school.

The issue in the OP is whether there are still school districts in which prayers are led by members of the administration or faculty.
The General Question answer is that there almost certainly are, although they tend to be in smaller districts in rural areas where the community tends to support such actions in despite of the law. Such districts only come to public attention when a student or parent protests, publicly. It is probably unlikely that we can get a reasonable count of how frequently this occurs.

gonzomax, if you would like to argue about whether some students should be permitted to pray on their own in schools, please open a separate thread in Great Debates.

[ /Modding ]

The OP seems to suggest that all public schools formerly had Official Daily Prayers.

I graduated high school in 1966. In First Grade, we began the day with the Pledge of Allegiance & “My Country 'tis of Thee.” There was no prayer or “moment of silence.” This was in a semi-rural Texas district. As the years went by, the Pledge & the song got dropped. There might be a prayer at special events; usually the Our Father–done in the Protestant fashion. But most of my school days were quite Prayer Free.

The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State battles teachers, principals, schools, and school boards that want to sneak official prayers in. They have a zillion lawsuits active at any given time.

Most schools have gotten the message that you can’t do a daily prayer, but they’ll start an assembly that way or a football game or post something religious. You sometimes wish they would give as much thought and creativity to the lesson plans.

I attended public schools through the mid-90s. There was one time in sixth grade we went on a camping field trip and at dinner one of the teachers led a prayer. I don’t remember it being made a big deal of. But other than, I can’t remember the student body being encouraged to pray.

As a former teacher, and former school board member in NJ I can tell you that the rule now is that anyone in school can pray any time they want to – as long as they don’t disrupt the educational process, and as long as they don’t coerce or try to coerce anyone else into doing so. Jane can bow her head and say grace at lunchtime, but she can’t insist that anybody else do so. Nor can the teacher direct that they must.

Personally, the “invocation” at non-classroom events does not offend me although I am a definite non-believer. All that’s needed is to stand or sit quietly until whoever is speaking is done.

In my youth (when dinosaurs ruled the earth) we definitely had “morning exercises” which included a patriotic song, the salute to the flag, a saying of the Lord’s Prayer (Catholics were free to leave off the last phrases) and a reading of a set number of verses – I think five – from the Old Testament. Presumably that last was in order to not offend any Jewish children. Not that we knew of any. One student was selected each day to have a turn choosing and reading the Bible verses, but the choice had to be approved by the teacher, as some of us had found the Song of Solomon.

ETA: I don’t know why we still did the Lord’s Prayer even though the theoretical existence of Jewish people was recognized. Is it possible that since the prayer simply refers to “Our father in heaven” and not specifically to Jesus, that Jews would not mind being asked to recite it?

Personally, I like the attitude of the Presbyterian minister in the church we went to at the time of the court decision that said schools should not require prayer. "That’s fine with us, " he said. “We’ll take care of the prayer, thanks. I won’t teach algebra and you don’t teach religion.”

What’s to stop anyone from offering up a silent, discreet prayer to anyone they want, any time they wish to do so?

What’s in this thread that suggests they can’t?

Absolutely nothing. But the people who want prayer in schools want Christianity to be acknowledged as the official religion of America. Making it silent and personal defeats that goal. That’s why the religious right perpetuates the lie that it is somehow illegal for individuals to pray in school. As we’ve said over and over, that’s not true and nobody on the side of separation of church and state claims it’s true. But the lie is a much better political position for them to raise funds and get their candidates elected.

Not a thing. I routinely said a quiet blessing in Hebrew before eating my lunch.

My yarmulke was also exempt from the ‘no hats in class’ rule.

Their was a Christian prayer group that met of their own accord in the library and prayed quietly.

I think there was also a Jewish youth group but I’m not sure.

I graduated in 93.

All schools that have exams have prayer going on in school.

I think only the first sentence of that answer belongs in GQ.

Related question – are schools still permitted to conduct a “moment of silence” where prayer is neither suggested nor discouraged? I recall in my high school days (mid-80’s) every school day started with the same routine over the loudspeaker: Pledge of Allegiance, moment of silence, announcements.

AFAIK, the moment of silence was ruled to be unconstitutional as well.

They still do in mine.*

*Pretty sure, I can hear the announcements coming from the school and some of them are prayers. I graduated from there 10 years ago.