The topic of prayer in public schools can lead to some passionate opinions. The pledge of allegiance's reference to "one nation, under God" has been largely done away with. So where has the prayer debate landed?
Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, Maryland law has the final say. So what does the law have to say on the matter? Here's a quick overview of prayer in public school law in Maryland.
Prayer in Public Schools
Prayer in public schools has been the subject of heated debate for quite some time, pitting two parts of the First Amendment against each other: the Establishment Clause versus the Freedom of Speech Clause. While some states offer no statutory guidance, others with broad school prayer protections have faced challenges in court. States can have varying prayer in public schools laws, and Maryland’s specifically allows for about one minute of silent prayer or meditation.
Prayer in Public Schools Laws in Maryland
Learn more about school prayer and Maryland law with the table and links below.
|Applicable Code Section||Educ. §7-104|
|What is Allowed?||Meditate silently for approximately one minute; student or teacher may read the holy scriptures or pray|
Maryland’s school prayer statute is known as a "minute of silent meditation" law, which is allowed so long as the state (in the form of the school or school staff) doesn't impose any pressure on students to pray or engage in any kind of religious activity.
Maryland's statute explicitly states this time is not for religious service or exercise and cannot be conducted as one. Instead, students must be allowed to meditate silently, on a religious theme or not. It's important to note that once a teacher or school official suggests that any moment of silence should be used for religious prayer, the activity is then considered to advance religion and is unconstitutional.
Note that Maryland law also allows for a student or teacher to read a holy book of their choosing or pray during this minute.
Even with clear instructions from courts regarding these silent periods, schools and parents continue to debate the other kinds of religious activities allowed in public schools. Some examples of allowable practices include use of school facilities by religious groups, permission for student-organized religious groups to meet on school property before and after the school day, and individual students praying during the day (as long as they don’t disrupt educational activities).
Maryland Prayer in Public Schools Laws: Related Resources
Deciphering how the legal and education systems deal with religion can be a complex endeavor. If you would like legal assistance with a school prayer case, you can contact a Maryland education attorney to discuss your case. You can also visit FindLaw's Religion at School section for additional articles and resources on this topic.
Contact a qualified attorney.