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School-Sponsored Prayer

Fact Sheet: School-Sponsored Prayer from The Interfaith Alliance

The classroom is an indispensable venue for teaching tolerance, advancing understanding of various religious traditions, and giving students an opportunity to discuss strategies for dealing with diversity. But neither now nor at any other time does the nation or religion benefit from government officials instructing students to pray or to reflect.

It is possible to cherish the right to religious freedom afforded to us by our nation’s founders without supporting school-sponsored prayer. In promoting the positive role of religion in public life, we must be careful not to undercut the vitality and integrity of this interfaith nation. Promoting religion for a narrow, sectarian purpose would only  lead to an environment detrimental to our nation and its faith communities.

Several attempts have been made to push legislation through Congress that would allow for school-sponsored prayer. The religious community  recognizes the dangers and pitfalls such legislation would have on religious liberty and plurality.

* Any effort to promote school-sponsored prayer is unnecessary. The U.S. Constitution protects the rights of students to voluntarily pray in public school. In fact, under current law, students can pray and read  the Bible privately, say grace at lunch, distribute religious materials to their friends and join voluntary religious clubs in middle and high schools.

* School-sponsored prayer proposals are divisive. Any sort of school-sanctioned         prayer endorses both the act of prayer – a practice particular to certain faith traditions – and religion, which not all students practice. When school structures endorse prayer, the simple act of attending “homeroom”  in the morning or attending a school sporting event can become a reminder of difference, a lack of respect and even discrimination.

* Public schools must maintain a careful balance between one student’s right to express personal religious beliefs and another student’s right to be free from religious coercion. Such a balance – and the public school environment in which it must exist – is best served by maintaining the institutional separation of religion and government.

The Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty is a  group of religious and civil rights groups which was created to opposed Rep. Ernest Istook’s efforts to amend the constitution to allow for school sponsored and government sponsored prayer.   A list of supporters is below in random order:
American Association of School Administrators
Muslim Public Affairs Council
American Association of University Women
American Baptist Churches, USA
National Association for Elementary School Principals
American Civil Liberties Union
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
American Ethical Union, Washington Ethical Action Office
National Council of Jewish Women
American Jewish Committee
National Education Association
American Jewish Congress
National Jewish Democratic Council
Americans for Democratic Action
National PEARL
Americans for Religious Liberty
National PTA
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Northwest Religious Liberty Association
Anti-Defamation League
People For the American Way
Baptist Joint Committee
Presbyterian Church USA, Washington Office
B’nai B’rith International
Rabbinical Assembly
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbinical Council of America
Church of the Brethren Washington Office
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Episcopal Church
Seventh-day Adventist Church State Council
Evangelical Lutheran Church, National Law Center
Soka Gakkai International–USA Buddhist Association
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
General Board of Church  &  Society, The United Methodist Church
The Interfaith Alliance
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Hadassah, Women’s Zionist Organization ofAmerica
Unitarian Universalist Association
Interfaith Impact for Justice and Peace
United Church Of Christ
Interfaith Religious Liberty Foundation
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Washington Ethical Action Office, American Ethical Union
Jewish Labor Committee
Women of Reform Judaism, The Federation of Temple Sisterhoods
The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Women’s American ORT
Jewish Women International
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Mainstream Loudoun
The Workmen’s Circle
Mennonite Central Committee, Washington Office

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