The Controversial Moment of Silence in American Schools

Topics: Supreme Court of the United States, Prayer, Separation of church and state Pages: 3 (804 words) Published: September 25, 2010
Moment of Silence in Schools

In 1962 the Supreme Court decided that public schools did not have the power to authorize school prayer. This issue has been controversial in the United States since the early 20th century. This decision made public schools in the U.S. more atheistic than many European nations. For example, crosses still hang on the classroom walls in Poland, and the Ten Commandments are displayed in Hungary .There are prayers held at the beginning of legislative and judicial sessions and every president has mentioned a divine power in their inaugural speech. In keeping with a spirit of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment, there is no reason why students should not be allowed to have a moment of silence during the school day when they can pray and due as they please.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962, in Engel v. Vitale, the organization, sponsorship or endorsement of school prayer is forbidden by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution in public school. Teachers and school officials may not lead classes in prayer, but prayer is permitted at voluntary religious clubs, and students are not forbidden from praying themselves. Other rulings have forbidden public, organized prayer at school assemblies, sporting events, and similar school sponsored activities.

In response to the Engel v. Vitale case some schools adopted a “moment of silence”. In 1963 another case was brought before the courts dealing with school prayer. The Schempp family challenged a law in Pennsylvania requiring the students to say ten verses of the Bible before school. These reading were declared unconstitutional. Members of the board felt the Bible readings would give the children more values. The Schempp family disagreed. Members Congress was trying to find a compromise. From this effort came the adoption of the moment of silence, which guaranteed by the First Amendments”Free Exercise “clause. Silent prayer was ruled...

References: Newsweek, October 3, 1994, vol.124
U.S. News and World Report, December 5, 1995 Vol.117, Nov. 22, pg.8-9
The Case 0f Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 1962, p.118-119
The Wall of Separation by Sandhya Bathija February 4, 2009
U.S. Department of Education guidelines for religion in the public schools
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