Engel V. Vitale

Seperation of Church and State

Location Herricks School District

Course case:

Argued on April 3, 1962

Decided on June 25, 1962

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion", Amendment I

Facts of The Case;

The Board of Regions for the State of New York authorized a short, voluntary prayer for recitation at the start of each school day. This was an attempt to defuse politically potent issue by taking it out of the hands of the local communities. The blandest of invocations read as follows: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and beg Thy blessings upon us, our teachers and our country."


Does the reading of a nondenominational prayer at the start of the school day violate the "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment?


Yes. Neither the prayer's denominational character nor its voluntary character saves it from unconstitutionality. By providing the prayer, New York officially approved religion. This was the first in a series of cases in which the Court used the establishment clause to eliminate religious activities of all sort which had traditionally been a part of public ceremonies. Despite the passage of time, the decision is still unpopular with a majority of Americans.


This flyer created by Verlesha Agee

As a future instructor I think I am going to lean towards allowing religion in the schools but at the discretion of each parent. Those who don't want their children engaging in any religious activities have the right to feel that way and their children should be allowed to stand in the hall during prayers in the school day.