Religion and Prayer in Public Schools Essay

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Religion in Public Schools

The practice of religion has been a major factor in American culture for centuries. The religion clause of the First Amendment, which states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," was developed to preserve the freedom of religion (Haynes 2). The religion clause was designed to protect religion from the control of the government, but, consequently, it restricts the expression of religion in public institutions such as public schools. This highly debated issue of religion in public schools is supported by the belief that religion is critical to the formation of a healthy society but is disputed on the basis that the church and
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In addition, school teachers and administrators may not organize or encourage prayer in the classroom (www.ed). Even with these guidelines, the debate over the extent of religion in public schools continues.

Favoring a loose interpretation of the religion clause are the supporters of the interaction between religion and the public school. These people firmly believe that religion should have an active role in the school curriculum. Charles C. Haynes, the scholar-in-residence at the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, participates in the fight to introduce religion into the public school curriculum. In April of 1996 during an interview with Ron Brandt, Haynes stated that under the First Amendment public schools may neither promote nor obstruct religion. Haynes believes that schools must be neutral, and neutrality means fairness even in regards to the curriculum. Haynes concedes that "promoting student freedom of co nscience and recognizing religion . . . in the curriculum creates a school culture in which no one imposes religious beliefs or practices on others . . ." (73). In his own article, Haynes discusses the possible risks of including religion in public school curriculum. He concludes that to integrate religion into the curriculum could risk the separation of the government from the church, but the greater risk is not to do so (Haynes 2). Haynes' opinion conflicts drastically with the opinions of those who take the
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