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Missouri Prayer in Public Schools Laws

Missouri Prayer in Public School Laws at a Glance

For the most part, public school officials may not prevent students from praying or engaging in religious expression, as long as that expression doesn't disrupt other students or appear to be school-sponsored. The First Amendment guarantees the right to free expression of religion, but also prohibits the government (in this case, public schools) from establishing any given religion. Naturally, these two elements of the Constitution often come into conflict.

Even with these federal constitutional protections, however, Missouri voters overwhelmingly passed a 2012 ballot initiative stating broad rights to religious expression. The initiative changed language in the state constitution guaranteeing the right to pray in public schools, as long it's voluntary and non-disruptive.

Language from the state constitution, which addresses Missouri's prayer in public school laws, can be found below. See FindLaw's Religion at School section to learn more.

Applicable Code Section

Missouri Constitution: Section 5, Article I

"...the state shall ensure public school students their right to free exercise of religious expression without interference, as long as such prayer or other expression is private and voluntary, whether individually or corporately, and in a manner that is not disruptive and as long as such prayers or expressions abide within the same parameters placed upon any other free speech under similar circumstances; and, to emphasize the right to free exercise of religious expression, that all free public schools receiving state appropriations shall display, in a conspicuous and legible manner, the text of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States."

What is Allowed? Voluntary, private, and nondisruptive prayer.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Missouri constitutional attorney, a Missouri education attorney, or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Religious Instruction vs. Teaching Religion in Public Schools

Public schools are not allowed to provide religious instruction or otherwise use the classroom to proselytize, even subtly. But teaching students about different religions is allowed, such as history lessons about religious crusades or the influence of the church on Renaissance art. As a rule of thumb, the instruction must have a secular purpose.

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Missouri Prayer in Public Schools Laws: Related Resources

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