Types of Prayer Banned

To date, the Supreme Court has never sanctioned any form of prayer spoken aloud in classrooms under the direction of officials in public schools. In a variety of decisions, it has repeatedly held or affirmed lower court rulings that several types of prayer are unconstitutional:

  • Voluntary
  • Mandatory
  • Sectarian, as in the Lord’s Prayer
  • Non-sectarian or non-denominational, as in the state-authored prayer at issue in Engel v. Vitale
  • Teacher or student-led classroom prayer
  • Invocations or benedictions

From the start, these decisions have shown no tolerance for attempts to tailor prayers to make them more acceptable to a majority of citizens. In fact, the very first prayer case arose after the State of New York commissioned the writing of an original 22 word prayer that it determined would cover a broad spectrum of religious belief; the prayer was approved by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders who stated their goal was to avoid causing sectarian disputes. Yet the Supreme Court ruled that the prayer’s nondenominational nature gave it no constitutional protection.

On Establishment Clause grounds similar to the prayer ban, the Supreme Court has also struck down related activities and practices involving religious worship in schools:

  • Religious invocations at graduation ceremonies
  • Prayers read by religious representatives
  • Student-led prayers at assemblies and sporting events
  • Posting of the Ten Commandments in schools

Inside Types of Prayer Banned