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Kentucky Prayer in Public Schools Laws

Public school students have a constitutional right to religious expression, but also have the freedom from religion under the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. In other words, schools are prohibited from both restricting a student's expression and promoting any particular religion. The U.S. Supreme Court clarified this in 1962 when it ruled that leading students in prayer at public schools violated the Constitution, although many states have passed laws that either sidestep or directly challenge this ruling. The issue of school prayer continues to generate controversy, as does the utterance of the words "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Kentucky Law and Prayer in Public Schools

As in most other states, Kentucky law allows teachers to announced a one-minute "moment of silence or reflection" that may be used for silent prayer or meditation. It allows students to pray without violating the Establishment Clause, since no one may lead the classroom in a religious prayer or recitation.

However, Kentucky law also allows local school districts to authorize the recitation of the "traditional Lord's prayer" (a standard Christian prayer) in elementary schools. While this appears to be in violation of the Establishment Clause, the statute indicates that the intention is to use the prayer in an educational context, while making it voluntary for the students:

"Pupils shall be reminded that this Lord's prayer is the prayer our pilgrim fathers recited when they came to this country in search for freedom. Pupils shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual's personal religious beliefs in any manner."

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

Applicable Code Section 158.175
What is Allowed?
  • Recitation of Lord's prayer to teach our country's history and as an affirmation of the freedom of religion in this country, if authorized by local school district; pupil's participation is voluntary
  • At the commencement of the first class of each day in all public schools, the teacher in charge of the room may announce that a moment of silence or reflection not to exceed one (1) minute in duration shall be observed.

Note: State laws are constantly changing, usually through the passage of new legislation, voter approval of ballot initiatives, or the opinions of higher courts. Make sure you contact a Kentucky education attorney or constitutional lawyer, or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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