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What types of religious activities are allowed in public schools?

The law of separation of church and state is continually evolving, and it can be hard to predict how the courts will rule on issues involving religion in public schools. In the past, the courts have ruled that the following practices do not violate the First Amendment religion clauses:

  • individual students praying during the school day if they do not disrupt classroom instruction or other educational activities;
  • transportation of students to private, sectarian schools at public expense;
  • public purchase of secular textbooks for use in religious schools;
  • use of school facilities by religious organizations in accordance with policies that also allow nonreligious groups to use the facilities;
  • release of students from schools to attend religious instruction classes;
  • provision of a signer for a deaf student in a religious school at public expense; and
  • permission for student organized religious clubs to meet on school property before or after the school day.

Practices that have been prohibited by the courts include:

  • sending public school teachers into private, sectarian schools to provide remedial instruction; and
  • providing a publicly funded salary supplement to teachers in religious schools.
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