Despite a Supreme Court ruling 50 years ago that classroom prayer and Scripture reading are unconstitutional even if they are voluntary, prayer is increasingly a part of school activities from early-morning moments of silence to lunch time prayer sessions to pre-football-game prayers for both players and fans. This is a quick summary of prayer in public school law in Vermont.
The First Amendment
The First Amendment both supports and runs counter to the idea of prayer in public schools. On one hand, students have the right to express their religious beliefs. However, public schools must maintain their religious neutrality so that all students of any religion, or no religion, can enjoy freedom of belief.
Vermont Laws Prayer In Public Schools
While Vermont laws do not address prayer in public schools, it is far from a settled legal issue. School officials may not sponsor, facilitate, promote, or participate in religious activities. Teachers may include readings from religious texts, as long as these are presented objectively as part of a secular (non-religious) course, such as in history, world studies, or literature classes. But schools may not teach that one religion is better than any other religion or no religion.
Moment of Silence
However, the state does allow students a moment of silence. However, the permissibility of it depends on what the purpose of the moment of silence is, and how it is carried out. If the only purpose is to promote religion, then it is forbidden. On the other hand, if the purpose of the moment of silence has nothing to do with religion -- for example, the purpose is to remember someone who died or to think about world peace -- then it may be okay.
Applicability of Federal Law
But like other states, even those with school prayer statutes, Vermont must abide by federal law and precedent. Even schools that set aside a "minute of silence ," a "period of quiet reflection," or some other accommodation for religious students, it must be broad enough so that it doesn't constitute school-sponsored prayer. Essentially, a school violates federal law by setting aside time or space specifically for "prayer," but that doesn't mean students are prohibited from praying voluntarily.
The following chart cites Vermont's prayer in public schools law, with links to related resources. See FindLaw's Religion at School section to learn more.
|Applicable Code Section||No statutory provisions|
|What is Allowed?||N/A|
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Vermont education attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Vermont Prayer in Public Schools Laws: Related Resources
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