ls, have taken a giant leap forward thanks to President Trump and his policy changes.
In June 1962, the Supreme Court in Engel v. Vitale ruled that prayer in public schools was unconstitutional because it “represented an establishment of religion.”
Since President Trump took office in January 2017, a priority of his administration has been to uphold the rights of religious liberties. On Thursday, Jan. 16, the Trump administration updated the federal guidance on public prayer in schools as well as nine other new rules that ensure religious organizations are treated fairly by the federal government.
Speaking from the Oval Office at an event on school prayer, Trump said the federal government is taking “historic steps to protect the first amendment right to pray in public schools.”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 16, 2020
Trump further stated, “Government must never stand between the people and God. We call this the right to pray.”
The actions taken by the administration coincided with National Religious Freedom Day.
Trump Keeps Campaign Pledge on Religious Liberties
In the 2016 campaign, and at events since, Trump has made a campaign promise to “safeguard students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools.”
In the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution, the very first right given is freedom of religion:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
It comes before freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or freedom of assembly.
Speaking at the White House event, Secretary of Education Nancy DeVos said, “Our actions today will protect the constitutional rights of students, teachers, and faith-based institutions. The First Amendment exists to protect religion from government.”
What Does the Federal Guidance on Prayer in Public Schools Do?
The new guidance cites Supreme Court rulings that state students may read scripture, pray together, or pray alone during the school day. They also have the right to share their religious views on issues and persuade their peers just as they are allowed to do with politics.
The guidance also mandates that states create a filing process when complaints are made against schools and school districts when someone believes their religious rights have been violated. Additionally, the states will be required to send the federal government a list of the public schools and districts that have “a policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer” each year.
What the Guidance Does Not Do
What the guidance does not do is encourage schools or teachers to sponsor religious activities, engage in religious speech as part of their official duties, or invite speakers on religious topics on behalf of the school.
In a Fox News article, evangelical adviser Johnnie Moore said, “The White House isn’t saying whether one should pray or to whom or what they should pray to. They are simply making it clear that in the United States, students have First Amendment rights also, and our `separation of church and state’ wasn’t intended to suppress a vibrant religious life in America but to facilitate it.”
We couldn’t agree more.
By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor
Copyright 2020, UnitedVoice.com