The First Amendment both supports and runs counter to the idea of prayer in public schools. On one hand, students have the right to express their religious beliefs. However, the public school itself cannot adopt an official religion or favor any one particular belief system.
To work around these limits, many states such as Maine have drafted laws that allow for a minute of silence for students to meditate or pray silently.
Maine Laws On Prayer In Public Schools
In the Pine Tree State, school officials may not impose prayers, or organize prayer events, or turn the school auditorium into a local church for religious celebrations. However, the state does allow students a moment of silence during which each student is free to pray, meditate or reflect to himself or herself.
But like other states, even those with school prayer statutes, Maine must abide by federal law and precedent. Even schools that set aside a "minute of silence," a "period of quiet reflection," or some other accommodation for religious students, it must be broad enough so that it doesn't constitute school-sponsored prayer.
The Supreme Court And School Prayer
The US Supreme Court has been clear in its stance on school prayer. The Court has consistently ruled that school-sponsored prayer violates the First Amendment, and that's why it isn't permitted at official school events. The court has held that students should feel free to express their beliefs, but their right to expression doesn't include a right to coerce classmates to join them in religious exercise.
Can My Child's School Teach About Religion?
Yes. Although public schools are not allowed to provide religious instruction, this differs from teaching students about the various religions. Generally, public schools may teach about religions if the instruction does not favor one religion over another or no religion at all. As well, the instruction must have a secular purpose.
The following chart cites Maine's prayer in public schools law, with links to related resources. See FindLaw's Religion at School section to learn more
|Applicable Code Section||Tit. 20-A, §4805|
|What is Allowed?||Period of silence shall be observed for reflection or meditation|
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Maine education attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Maine Prayer in Public Schools Laws: Related Resources
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