Engel V. Vitale: the Beginning of the Battle Against School Prayer

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One of the most highly debated aspects of American life and liberty is religion. America’s foundation is based upon the idea that religion should be a freedom and a choice of the person involved, not a requirement by the government. Yet religion is one of the very things to United States was founded on. In the last half of the 20th century, the differing opinions Americans held on religious conviction became an ongoing debate on where and when is the right time to observe one’s faith. Most notably this debate extended to the public schools. One of the most prominent cases was that of Engel v. Vitale. The court case of Engel v. Vitale became known as the School Prayer decision and was the first of its kind in the American judicial system.

The New York Board of Regents penned the following prayer to be spoken in New York public schools: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our Country” (Unger and Unger 223). The prayer was intended to be simple, inoffensive, and inclusive but the reaction was quite the opposite; the controversy that ensued became the stepping-stone for one of the most controversial topics of modern day activism and politics. Mr. Justice Black delivered the assertion that, “it is nether sacrilegious nor antireligious to say that each separate government in this country should stay out of the business of writing or sanctioning official prayers and leave the purely religious function to the people themselves and to those the people choose to look to for religious guidance” (Unger and Unger 226). I disagree with the idea that religion does not belong in the publics school systems of America; however, I feel as though the governing powers should leave religion to those who care to partake in it.

Although the intentions of the New York State Board of Regents were reputable, they failed to understand that because of the many different religions a single...
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