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, the school itself cannot adopt an official religion or favor any one particular belief system. To work around these limits, many states (including Virginia) have drafted laws that allow for a minute of silence for students to meditate or pray silently.
Virginia Laws On Prayer In Public Schools
In Virginia, school officials may not impose prayers, or organize prayer events, or turn the school auditorium into a local church for religious celebrations.
However, the Commonwealth does allow students a moment of silence during which each student is free to pray, meditate or reflect to himself or herself.
Controversy Over School-Sponsored Prayer
Some lawmakers have pushed legislation that would "codify students' right to pray before, during and after school; organize prayer groups, clubs and events; wear religious clothing or accessories; and express religious viewpoints at school forums."
Critics oppose the legislation on several grounds citing that students already have a right to pray quietly whenever they want and to express religious viewpoints in school, and that supporters are seeking to "enshrine" Christianity in public life.
The Supreme Court And School Prayer
The US Supreme Court has been clear in its stance on school prayer. The Court has ruled consistently that school-sponsored prayer violates the First Amendment, and that's why it isn't permitted at official school events. The court has held that students should feel free to express their beliefs, but their right to expression doesn't include a right to coerce classmates to join them in religious exercise.
The following chart cites Virginia's prayer in public schools law, with links to related resources. See FindLaw's Religion at School section to learn more.
|Applicable Code Section||22.1-203 & .1|
|What is Allowed?||School may establish the daily observance of one minute of silence; students may engage in voluntary student-initiated prayer|
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Virginia education attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Research the Law
Virginia Prayer in Public Schools Laws: Related Resources
Contact a qualified attorney.