Americans are guaranteed the right to practice their chosen religion without restraint, according to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But it's important to understand that the same amendment also guarantees the freedom from a state-sponsored religion. While these two provisions of the First Amendment may seem to be at odds in the context of public school, they actually work together to make sure no students are made to feel excluded because of their religion.
In 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools may not lead students in prayer of any kind, but that voluntary and non-disruptive prayer is protected under the Constitution. Some states still have school prayer laws on the books that violate this ruling, but they are unenforceable.
Prayer in Rhode Island Public Schools at a Glance
Like most states, Rhode Island has instituted a one-minute period of silence at the beginning of each school day. While some states offer this as an option for districts, it is mandatory in Rhode Island public schools.
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||16-12-3.1|
|What is Allowed?||At the opening of every school day in all grades in all public schools the teacher in charge of the room in which each class is held shall announce that a period of silence not to exceed one minute in duration shall be observed for meditation, and during this period silence shall be maintained and no activities engaged in|
Note: State laws are constantly changing through the enactment of newly signed legislation, decisions from higher courts, and other means. While we strive to ensure the accuracy of these pages, you also may want to contact a Rhode Island education 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?
It is legal to discuss religion as a topic 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
Rhode Island Public School Prayer Laws: Related Resources
Contact a qualified attorney.