Schools are not place for preaching religion

A federal appellate court increased the types of religious expression allowed in schools in a July 12 ruling. The specific allowances that were made, however, are both inappropriate infringements on others’ rights and unconstitutional according to several precedents.
The three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals defended the practice of students engaging in prayer over the intercom and at graduation ceremonies. The ruling claims that this type of speech is protected as long as teachers and faculty members are not persuading students to pray or use a particular prayer.
The issue began when the Alabama Legislature voted to permit voluntary student-led prayers. A high school principal challenged the constitutionality of the decision, and a federal District Court judge overturned the Legislature’s vote. This decision was then challenged by the attorney general of Alabama, with whom the appellate court ultimately sided.
These increased allowances are objectionable for several reasons. By allowing students to pray over the public address system or at graduation ceremonies and assemblies, the school is implicitly sanctioning these prayers. Although the ruling prohibits faculty members from encouraging students to pray, allowing the use of public facilities — microphones, sound equipment and auditoriums — for disseminating a religious message necessarily creates a state-supported advantage for the religion and its believers.
The ruling does not let the faculty determine the contents of the prayers because the court believes that would institutionalize religion in school. While the administration cannot determine the contents of the speech, the ruling allows them to select the students who will lead the prayers. In addition, religious messages from children are no more appropriate in a public school than those from adults.
The Supreme Court has made several decisions which serve as precedents that illustrate the unconstitutionality of such behavior. In McCollum vs. Board of Education of Illinois the Court ruled that schools receiving tax support may not disseminate religious doctrines or promote sectarian causes. In Wallace vs. Jaffree the Court ruled that mandated silence for “meditation or voluntary prayer” violates the clause prohibiting the respect of any establishment of religion. Finally, the Court ruled in Abington Township vs. Schempp the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer or a Bible reading violates the First Amendment and the separation of church and state, which provides that the government should neither advance nor inhibit religion.
Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are among the most important rights the Constitution recognizes. In instances when these values conflict, the integrity of both must be preserved. The First Amendment grants protection to members of all religions from government sponsored or condoned attacks. Giving students the opportunity to pray to a student assembly creates an advantage for the religion of those allowed to speak. Protecting the speech of some does not necessitate infringing the beliefs of others.