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Freedom of Religion in School: Checklist

The United States was the first country to make religious freedom part of its fundamental law. Through the years, the ways in which people may practice and express their religious convictions has been refined by cases heard by the Supreme Court. This process has been particularly common with respect to religion in school. In fact, few issues have received so much public and legal attention.

The following checklist can help you determine whether your local public school is engaged in practices that have been addressed by the Court.


My public high school starts its graduation ceremonies with a nondenominational prayer.Even nonsectarian prayer at a public school graduation is unconstitutional. It violates the constitutional prohibition on establishment of religion because it involves the government (acting through the public school) in a religious activity. Lee v. Weisman (U.S. Supreme Court).


My local public school requires the students to observe a "prayerful moment of silence" every morning after the Pledge of Allegiance.Even if public school students are given the option of meditating during a moment of silence intended for prayer, requiring such a moment during the school day violates the Constitution. Wallace v. Jaffree (U.S. Supreme Court).


The state started giving salary "boosters" to teachers at the local religious schools.The government can't get involved in religious education financially; it could cause government to become entangled in religious matters. Lemon v. Kurtzman (U.S. Supreme Court).


The school district pays for students to get bused to voluntary monthly religious education programs.Certain expenditures can be made for social policy purposes that don't get the government too involved. For instance, in Everson v. Board of Education (U.S. Supreme Court), it was considered acceptable for tax money to go to a bus fare program to get students to and from a religious schools.

Next Steps
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