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Religion’s Place in Public Schools

Congressional Action
112th Congress (2011-2012)

The place of religion in public schools has been a recurring and often divisive issue in America's history.  The landmark Supreme Court ruling Engel v. Vitale curtailed prayer in school as a violation of the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment.  Controversy over this and subsequent Court rulings, including efforts to overturn them by amending the Constitution, has been a consistent factor in Congress since then.

Legislation in the House of Representatives:

    • H.J.RES.27: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution restoring religious freedom
      Sponsor: Representative Cliff Stearns
      Introduced on February 14, 2011

      Summary: Prohibits: (1) infringement of the right to pray and recognize religious beliefs, heritage, or traditions on public property, including schools; and (2) government from requiring any person to join in religious activity, initiate or designate school prayers, discriminate against religion, or deny equal access to a benefit on account of religion.

Legislation in the Senate:

    •  S.RES.18: Expressing support for prayer at school board meetings
      Sponsor: Senator David Vitter
      Introduced on January 25, 2011

      Summary: Recognizes that prayer before school board meetings is a protected act and expresses support for such prayer.

Information on proposed legislation can be found on the Library of Congress website: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php