Justice Now

J U S T I C E   N O W:
You Be the Judge
Case 3: Separation of Church and State

In 1982, in Alabama, Ishmael Jafree learned that his 5 year-old son was asked to recite prayers in his public school class. The boy had been taught specific prayers, including "The Lord's Prayer." The kids in class were asked to recite these prayers in place of a moment of silence at the start of each school day. Kids who refused were teased by the other kids.

What was Mr. Jafree's problem?

He was really uncomfortable with having kids say prayers in school because he believed it:

  • Violated the US Constitution's "separation of Church and State" clause.
  • Violated the First Amendment right to freedom of religion (or freedom from a religion).

What did he do?

Mr. Jafree filed a lawsuit in Federal Court to strike down the Alabama law that authorized a one-minute period of silence in all public schools "for meditation or voluntary prayer."

What happened in Court?

The State argued that the law called only for a "moment of silence" and did not require a child to pray to a particular God or to pray at all.

Jafree's lawyers argued that the law did intend to establish religion in the schools and therefore clearly violated the First Amendment. They pointed out that the children were taught specific prayers and were asked to recite these in place of a moment of silence. They argued that the law was not being followed as it had been written.

Who was right?
In whose favor do you think the court decided -
Mr. Jafree or the State of Alabama?
What do
you think?


When students are at school, school rules are the law. Schools can require students to observe a moment of silence or prayer.


The law only authorized a moment of silence. It did not require the children to pray. What's the big deal?


It's okay to have a moment of silence but the schools shouldn't be teaching specific prayers.


Students in public schools are protected by the First Amendment. This school rule clearly violates of the children's right to freedom of/from religion. Kids shouldn't be forced to say prayers in school.


Passing a law that requires a moment of silence paves the way for a school to establish religion in the school. This violates not only the First Amendment freedom of/from religion but also violates the Constitution's separation of church and state. No school prayer. No moment of silence. Period.

Or click here to see the results so far.


Check out other "You be the Judge" Cases:



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