The freedom to practice one's religion without restraint is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But this same amendment also protects one's freedom from a state-sponsored religion, referred to as the "Establishment Clause." Since public schools receive federal funding, any religious advocacy on the part of the school or district would violate this important element of the First Amendment.
Thus, the First Amendment helps ensure that no students are made to feel excluded because of their religion. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that public schools may not lead students in prayer of any kind, but that voluntary and non-disruptive prayer is protected under the Constitution.
Prayer in Montana Public Schools at a Glance
Montana's school prayer statute follows federal guidelines in some ways, such as prohibiting religious indoctrination or advocacy. But it also states that teachers or administrators "may open the school day with a prayer," which would violate federal law and is thus unenforceable. The law also (correctly) states that schools may include religious materials if they are relevant from an educational perspective.
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||20-7-112|
|What is Allowed?||
A publication of a sectarian or denominational character may not be distributed in any school. Instruction may not be given advocating sectarian or denominational doctrines. However, any teacher, principal, or superintendent may open the school day with a prayer. This section does not prohibit a school library from including the Bible or other religious material having cultural, historical, or educational significance.
(Despite the wording of Montana's statute, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that opening the school day with a prayer or any other kind of religious language is unconstitutional)
Note: State laws are subject to change at any time through the enactment of newly signed legislation or voter-approved ballot initiatives, decisions from higher courts, and other means. We strive to ensure the accuracy of these pages, but you also may want to contact a Montana education law attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Prayer in Montana Public Schools: Related Resources
Contact a qualified attorney.