Engel v Vitale; 300 US 421

in Legal Chyme by

A New York State law required public schools to open each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a nondenominational prayer in which the students recognized their dependence upon God. The law allowed students to absent themselves from this activity if they found it objectionable. A parent sued on behalf of his child, arguing that the law violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as made applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Whether school-sponsored nondenominational prayer in public schools violates the non-establishment clause.

YES. The provision allowing students to absent themselves from this activity did not make the law constitutional because the purpose of the non-establishment clause was to prevent government interference with religion. Since Americans adhere to a wide variety of beliefs, it is not appropriate for the government to endorse any particular belief system. Wars, persecutions, and other destructive measures often arose in the past when the government involved itself in religious affairs.

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