While the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits public schools from promoting or favoring any one religion, the First Amendment also provides for the free expression of beliefs. This tension has played out in state laws that attempt to satisfy both ends of the spectrum. Ohio prayer in public schools laws allow for "reasonable periods of time" for meditation or related activities.
Prayer that is led and/or initiated by school officials -- including prayer that merely seems to be school sponsored (such as a pre-game prayer by an athletic team) -- is strictly prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. Although there may appear to be gray areas where some religious expression would be allowed, it is a fairly bright line.
As a rule of thumb, prayer that is done voluntarily (not directed by the school) is permitted, as long as no particular faiths are promoted or excluded.
However, it wasn't until relatively recently that the U.S. Supreme Court definitely struck down institutionalized prayer in public schools. A New York State law requiring public schools to start each day with either a Christian Bible reading or prayer was struck down by the High Court in 1962. There have been several other Supreme Court cases since then, including a 1980 decision striking down a Kentucky law that required the posting of the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments in all public school classrooms.
But religion has played such an important role in the arts, culture, history, literature, and other academic fields, that its discussion in an academic context is permissible. For example, teachers may discuss the religious themes portrayed in Michelangelo's mural on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel so long as this discussion is purely academic.
Learn more about Ohio prayer in the public schools laws and related matters by following the links below. See FindLaw's Religion at School section for more information.
|Applicable Code Section||3313.601|
|What is Allowed?||Reasonable periods of time for programs or meditation upon a moral, philosophical, or patriotic theme|
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact an Ohio education attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Ohio Prayer in Public Schools Laws: Related Resources
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