Engel V. Vitale

School-sponsored prayer in public school is unconstitutional

Engel vs. Vitale

The Engel vs. Vitale case started because a New York State law required public schools to open each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a non-denominational pray in which the students acknowledge their dependence upon Christ. The law allowed students to truant themselves from this action only if they found it objectionable. A parent sued on behalf of his child, arguing that the law infringed upon the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which was made relevant to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Dates and Opinion


When Did It Happen? In 1958-1959 a group of parents, which included Steven Engel in Hyde Park, NY, objected to the prayer, which read, “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Three, and we beg Thy blessing upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.”

Oral arguments took place on April 3, 1962. The Court’s ruling was released on June 25, 1962.


Mr. Justice Stewart wrote the dissent

· Mr. Justice Stewart argued in his dissent that the Establishment Clause was only meant to forbid the creation of a state-sponsored church. It was not to prohibit all types of government insolvent with religion. Mr. Stewart found that the nondenominational nature of the prayer and the distant provision removed constitutional challenges.



Did It Impact Society?

People say that the absence of “school prayer” has been linked to almost every social ill, from school shootings to drug addiction. A good number of politicians argue that eliminating school-sponsored prayer set America on the road to moral and spiritual ruin.