The issue of prayer in public schools has consistently proven to be a divisive issue around the country. This hot-button issue pits the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment against the freedom of expression. Some states have no statutory provisions for school prayer and tend to rely on federal law, which allows limited prayer as long as it doesn't alienate any one group of students.
In 2012, Florida stepped right into this controversial issue when Gov. Rick Scott signed a politically-motivated law authorizing school prayer. The burden was left with school districts to decide whether to allow students to pray or deliver "inspirational messages." By most accounts, school districts are ignoring the law.
See the table and in-depth summary below to learn more about Florida's prayer in public school law. For more information, see FindLaw's Religion at School section for related articles.
|Applicable Code Section||1003.45|
|Who Enforces What?||Individiual school districts may decide whether to allow brief periods not to exceed two minutes, for the purpose of silent prayer or meditation|
The Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution
The First Amendment's Establishment Clause prohibits public schools, who are considered agents of the government, from performing two specific and conflicting actions: encouraging students to practice religion and restricting students from practicing religion. For this reason, many types of school prayers are prohibited in public schools.
United States Supreme Court
Since the 1960s, the United States Supreme Court has consistently ruled that public school prayer, non-secular Bible reading, and similar religious practices in schools violate the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has not, however, banned voluntary and private practice of religion by students in schools. For that reason, many states, such as Florida, have passed laws that permit moments of silent reflection. Since students are not required to pray during the moment of silence, these laws are a state’s way of accommodating a student’s right to practice religion without explicitly endorsing religion.
Florida State Law
Section 1003.45 of the Florida Statutes governs prayer in public schools in Florida. It gives individual school districts to the power to decide whether to allow brief periods of silent prayer or meditation (not to exceed two minutes). The moment of reflection may be at the start of each school day or each school week.
For more information, see FindLaw's Religion at School section. Additional resources are available by following these links:
An experienced Florida education attorney can provide answers to questions about current Florida school-related laws and student rights in public schools.
Contact a qualified attorney.