Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, individuals have the freedom to practice their religion without restraint. But it also guarantees the freedom from any government sponsorship of any particular religion. These two important facets of the same constitutional amendment present considerable tension in the debate of prayer in public schools, each side of the debate claiming constitutional authority. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that public schools may not lead students in an official prayer at the start of each day, but that voluntary and non-disruptive prayer is protected under the Constitution. Therefore, state laws must reflect this decision.
Prayer in New Hampshire Public Schools at a Glance
While federal law largely governs school prayer (in public schools), New Hampshire statute allows for five minutes of silent time before the start of classes for the "free exercise of religion." In order to comply with federal law, state law specifically prohibits teacher supervision or school participation in any kind of prayer.
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||189:1-b|
|What is Allowed?||
On each school day, before classes of instruction officially convene in the public schools of this sovereign state, a period of not more than five minutes shall be available to those who wish to exercise their right to freedom of assembly and participate voluntarily in the free exercise of religion.
There shall be no teacher supervision of this free exercise of religion, nor shall there be any prescribed or proscribed form or content of prayer.
Note: State laws may change or be overruled at any time through the enactment of newly signed legislation or decisions from higher courts (both federal and state). While we strive to ensure the accuracy of these pages, you may also want to contact a New Hampshire education law attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
The Lemon Test: Does it Violate the First Amendment?
Religion may be discussed in public schools as long as it is used in an academic context and not proselytized. The so-called "Lemon" test says that a public school's policy involving religion -- in order to be considered constitutional -- must:
Research the Law
New Hampshire Prayer in Public School Laws: Related Resources
Contact a qualified attorney.