Can they pray?
Perhaps one of the more confusing aspects of teaching about religion is the question of whether students can pray in public schools.
The answer is yes, within established guidelines.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union:
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- Students have the right to pray individually or in groups, or to discuss their religious views with peers so long as they are not disruptive.
- Because the Establishment Clause does not apply to purely private speech, students can read Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, pray before tests and discuss religion with other willing students.
- Students can pray quietly in the classroom except when required to be engaged in school activities.
- In informal settings, such as the cafeteria or in the halls, students may pray audibly or silently, subject to the same rules that apply to other speech in these locations.
- The right to pray does not include the right to have a captive audience or to compel other students to participate.
Tim Goral is senior editor.