Friday’s editorial describes the delicate balance between church and state guarded by the U.S. Constitution.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The First Amendment to the
“The place of religion in our society is an exalted one, achieved through a long tradition of reliance on the home, the church and the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind. We have come to recognize through bitter experience that it is not within the power of government to invade that citadel, whether its purpose or effect be to aid or oppose, to advance or retard. In the relationship between man and religion, the State is firmly committed to a position of neutrality.”
Neither to promote nor prohibit the
free expression of religion, to protect it while preventing its establishment:
The Constitution mandates the government follow a very fine line with respect
to religion. After a moment’s hesitation, it appears the
For years, a
Ending the prayer sessions altogether would have been directly contrary to decades of federal law, and would have run contrary even to principles espoused by both Americans United and the American Civil Liberties Union. Both groups joined with a host of religious groups in the late 1990s to draft a “joint statement on current law” regarding religion in public schools, a set of principles largely repeated in the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines for schools. Students are allowed to gather during noninstructional time – i.e., before or after school, or during breaks – for religious activities and must be treated the same as any other student group.
“Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive,” the joint statement reads. Both they and the Department of Education, for example, specify that gatherings such as the popular “See You at the Pole” are expressly allowed, as long as schools neither encourage nor discourage participation.
Many readers may be surprised to
note that the ACLU statement also defends students’ “right to distribute
religious literature to their schoolmates,” suggesting that the
Are these restrictions too harsh,
out of touch with
Likewise, members of all those faiths are protected here – exactly as our founders intended it.