Students in public schools have the constitutionally guaranteed right to religious expression (and free speech), but also have the freedom from an established state religion under the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. In other words, public schools are prohibited from both restricting a student's expression and promoting any particular religion, creating a sometimes confusing tension in the law. The U.S. Supreme Court clarified this in 1962 by ruling that a school district in New York State could not begin each school day with an official prayer.
Critics of this ruling and the resulting precedent argue that "God has been removed" from public schools, although students are still free to pray and express their religious beliefs as long as they are not disruptive. Many schools have implemented a "minute of silence" at the start of each school day, a time when students may pray or meditate silently.
School prayer remains a contentious issue in many states. See FindLaw's Religion at School section For additional articles related to school prayer, including School Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance: Constitutionality .
Oregon Law and Prayer in Public Schools
Oregon code does not address the issue of school prayer, as you can see in the following infobox:
|Applicable Code Section||No statutory provisions|
|What is Allowed?||-|
Note: State laws are always subject to change at any time, usually through the passage of new legislation or the issuance of opinions from federal or state appeals courts. You may want to contact an Oregon education law attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
So in the absence of any statutory provisions on school prayer, the state relies on guidance from federal law. Students who wish to pray may do so, in accordance with their constitutional rights, but only if it does not disrupt class or the learning process. Also, teachers may include religion in their curriculum as long as its sole purpose is for education (for example, teaching Renaissance art requires knowledge of Christian symbolism).
Does it Violate the Establishment Clause? The Lemon Test
The U.S. Supreme Court established a three-part test to determine whether a public school (a government institution) is "establishing" religion in violation of the First Amendment. The so-called "Lemon " test says that a policy -- in order to be considered constitutional -- must:
Research the Law
Oregon Prayer in Public Schools Law: Related Resources
Contact a qualified attorney.