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Arkansas Prayer in Public Schools Laws

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution seems somewhat contradictory with respect to religious expression in public schools. On one hand, federal law guarantees freedom of religious expression (and speech in general), which would include prayer in school. But on the other hand, the same amendment also guarantees the freedom from an established state religion (keep in mind that public schools are state institutions). Simply stated, schools may not restrict a student's expression -- provided it's voluntary and non-disruptive -- or promote any particular religion, creating a sometimes confusing tension. The U.S. Supreme Court clarified this in 1962 by ruling that schools may not lead students in an official prayer.

While proponents of school prayer often claim that "God has been removed" from public schools, students still have the right to pray. While many states use a "minute of silence" to allow silent meditation or prayer, others lack statutory guidance.

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 Sections
  • No statutory provisions for school prayer
  • Ark. Code Ann. § 6-21-201, et seq., establishes equal access to school facilities for non-school meetings and events, regardless of religion or ideology
What is Allowed? Generally, silent and voluntary prayer (in accordance with federal constitutional law)

Note: State laws are never permanent and are subject to change at any time, usually through the enactment of newly signed legislation but sometimes through appellate court decisions and other means. You may want to contact an Arkansas education attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Prayer in Public Schools: Arkansas Law

Arkansas law does not address school prayer, relying on established federal case law. But the state code does protect the rights of religious groups to use public school facilities after hours. Additionally, states may teach religion in the appropriate academic context. For instance, a teacher may not imply that God created the earth 4,000 years ago but may discuss the influence of Christian symbolism in Renaissance art.

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Arkansas Law and Prayer in Public Schools: Related Resources

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