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:
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
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.
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
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
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.
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November 19, 2005
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