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Alabama Prayer in Public Schools Laws

Public school officials may not prevent a student from exercising his or her constitutionally protected right to religious expression, but also may not promote or single out any particular religion under the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court clarified this in 1962 when it ruled that leading students in prayer at public schools violated the Constitution, but many states have attempted to sidestep this ruling by calling for a period of "quiet reflection" or "meditation" at the start of the school day.

See FindLaw's Religion at School section for additional articles related to school prayer, including School Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance: Constitutionality.

Is Prayer Allowed in Alabama Public Schools?

Alabama statute establishes a period of quiet reflection in which students may pray or meditate silently, similar to laws in many other states. But the state also specifically permits teachers at public schools, "recognizing that the Lord God is one," to pray and lead students in prayer at the beginning of any class period. Although the proscribed prayer spelled out in the statute addresses monotheism generally, it runs counter to established federal case law.

In other words, this matter is not entirely clear in Alabama.

Applicable Code Section 16-1-20 & 16-1-20.3.
What is Allowed?
  • Period of silence not to exceed one minute in duration, shall be observed for meditation or voluntary prayer, and during any such period no other activities shall be engaged in; student-initiated voluntary prayer permitted
  • Alabama statute says public school teachers may lead their class in prayer to the "Lord God," but at this time its constitutionality is questionable

Note: State laws are always subject to change through ballot initiatives, new legislation, court rulings, and other means. Be sure to contact an Alabama education attorney or constitutional lawyer, or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

What About Religious Instruction in Public Schools?

Federal and state laws recognize that the subject of religion is very important in the teaching of history, art, and many other subjects. Teachers may not preach or proselytize, even subtly, but they may discuss religion for the secular purpose of education.

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Alabama Laws on Prayer in Public Schools: Related Resources

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