Category Archives: Free Exercise of Religion

Praying Before a Football Game, Free Exercise or Imposing on Others?

Free exercise of religion has been an ongoing issue the American society has yet to find a resolution for. Leading a Christian prayer before a football game has been one of those situations where it is very difficult to classify it as a first amendment right to freely practice your own religion, or if it is imposing on other people. There is not much difference in opinions of students on if they simply pray for team unity, or if they pray for religious reasons; 52% say it is for team unity and 48% say it is for religious reasons according to an article written by the Omniscient. The survey just represents how hard this issue is to classify as one thing or the other, and how to resolve this tension.

There is also a fine line with the authority of a student leading a prayer or a coach leading one. A student has less authority to the situation because they aren’t the ones leading the team and who everyone looks up to, however, with the coach leading in prayer some may feel compelled or forced to participate in the prayer because that is their coach and they may feel like it is their duty to follow what he or she says, even if they may not believe in what they are saying. A student, Quade Zimmerman, who is not a Christian and is on a football team that prays before every game, responded to this idea and said himself that “We make it a choice if it’s the players, but not if it’s the coach. He has more authority, so he gets to say what goes and what doesn’t.”

The number of people who believe Christian prayer should be allowed at schools is dwindling, so that gives people, who previously were extremely outnumbered, an opportunity to speak up. There has always been students and other people attending the games who have been feeling left out or inferior because their other teammates and other attendees are praying, but that they are less of a minority, the battles are getting more intense, and more prevalent in our society. An anonymous student explained this feeling of inferiorness to his fellow teammates by saying “While they are praying I quietly stand to the side because I don’t believe in what they are praying about and I feel like I shouldn’t participate. Sometimes I feel like the team is judging me and that is very difficult.” Nobody should have to feel like they are at the bottom of the totem pole on a team that is supposed to be unified and working together, which is why we need a solution to this ongoing issue.

Recommendations made by the US Supreme Court have been to allow students to pray individually, and not have a specifically led prayer that leaves other students of different religions feeling left out and judged. Finally, although people argue that a coach leading a prayer before a football game is harmless and only brings unity to the team,how can a team be unified if there are students standing off to the side and feeling lesser than their fellow football players?  This is why we, as a nation, need to have individual prayer before sports games, so everyone can practice their own prayer for their own religion and still bring unity to the teams by all of the students feeling welcomed and loved.

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Prayer in Schools

Essential Question: Does loosening restrictions on prayer in schools for students violate the First Amendment?

Freedom of religion, according to the 1st Amendment, states that everyone has the right to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all. The Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment also prohibits government from promoting or encouraging religion in any way. So where does the line cross in schools with religion, considering teachers are considered government staff, but students aren’t?  With there being such an indefinite rule or law regarding student prayer and what is considered only student encouraged or school encourage. There has been multiple cases trying to clear up what is unconstitutional. Such as the Engel v. Vitale case in 1962, where the school was challenged for authorizing a short, voluntary prayer for recitation at the beginning of the school day. This was a nondenominational prayer, meaning it did have an official religion. The court ruled that the government had no right to draft a formal prayer in which it did violated the First Amendment. Although this does allow the students to exercise their religious rights voluntarily, it is still the government setting aside a time in which encourages religious practices. In other cases such as North Carolina prayer in public school where “a period of silence not to exceed one minute in duration shall be observed and silence maintained; prayer by individuals on voluntary basis is allowed.” This is the way many schools have gotten around putting religion in schools, but only until someone finds a way that it goes against their own rights. Loosening restrictions on prayer in schools for the students will violate the 1st Amendment in the end. No matter how the schools try to weave around the indefinite laws and rules, someone will find a way that it violates their rights and intertwines government and religion.

Citations:

North Carolina Prayer in Public Schools Laws – FindLaw
“North Carolina Prayer In Public Schools Laws – Findlaw.” Findlaw. N. p., 2018. Web. 26 Sept. 2018.
https://statelaws.findlaw.com/north-carolina-law/north-carolina-prayer-in-public-schools-laws.html
“Engel v. Vitale.” Oyez, 25 Sep. 2018
www.oyez.org/cases/1961/468.
Introduction to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment
“Introduction To The Establishment Clause Of The First Amendment.” Law2.umkc.edu. N. p., 2018. Web. 26 Sept. 2018.
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/estabinto.htm
Constitutional Amendment on School Prayer
“Constitutional Amendment On School Prayer.” American Civil Liberties Union. N. p., 2018. Web. 26 Sept. 2018.
https://www.aclu.org/other/constitutional-amendment-school-prayer
Do, W., Program, A., Program, Y., Project, K., Project, O., Education, H., Network, F., Overview, R., Students, F., for Teachers, A. S. O., Artists, F., Administrators, F., Activists, F., Librarians, F., Education, F., Dissent, P., Speech, H., Education, H., Pornography, N., Performance, T., Art, V., Games, V., Video, F., Censorship, R., NCAC, A., History, M., Directors, B., Coalition, T., Information, F. and Opportunities, J.
Do, What et al. “The First Amendment In Schools: Resource Guide: Religious Expression In The Public Schools.” National Coalition Against Censorship. N. p., 2018. Web. 26 Sept. 2018.
https://ncac.org/resource/the-first-amendment-in-schools-resource-guide-religious-expression-in-the-public-schools

Can a school force its students to perform religious practices?

Can a school force their students to pray or even salute a flag?
Firstly, a group organization joined by Steven Engel to claim that having to pray and practice one certain religion at the beginning of a school day went against the First Amendment. These kids from the Herrick’s School District would stand and say a prayer every day. There was a court case made in 1962 to petition prayer. The facts of the case are that it goes against the Establishment Clause, which the act of saying a prayer or prayers aloud violates our First Amendment, as Justice
Douglas concurred in the judgment he made. William Vitale allowed the following prayer to be said aloud, in the presence of a teacher; “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.” Through the 10 people who testified, The New York Court of Appeals sustained an order that the prayer was unconstitutional.
Secondly, there was another problem that made its way to court by the Minersville School District who believed it was against the First Amendment to expel kids for not saluting to the American Flag as a part of the daily school exercise. In 1935, Lillian and William Gobitis were expelled from a public school in Pennsylvania, these kids believed saluting to the flag was forbidden by the Bible, also saying it violated the First Amendment of their basic rights. These children were to salute the flag
and say, “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” Some believe it is good for these children to show unity with the Americas within public schools on a daily basis, but is also evokes others to believe that it goes against our liberty and authority. After the trial, it is to be believed that if one does not choose to salute the flag, it must solely mean that they do not appreciate the nation’s hopes and dreams. Furthermore, the court stated, “Public schools may require their students to salute the American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance over any religious objections.”
All in all, the First Amendment protects our right to religious freedom and to be able to practice whichever religion we wish to if we would like. A school cannot force one to pray or salute if one does not believe or wishes to do so.

 

Works Cited:

 

“Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962).” Justia Law, Oyez, 2018, supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/370/421/#tab-opinion-1943887. The state cannot hold prayers in public schools, even if it is not required and not tied to a particular religion.

“Minersville Sch. Dist. v. Board of Educ., 310 U.S. 586 (1940).” Justia Law, Oyez, 2018, supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/310/586/#tab-opinion-1936815. In this eventually overruled decision, the Court held that public schools may require their students to salute the American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance over any religious objections.

“{{Meta.pageTitle}}.” {{Meta.siteName}}, Oyez, 27 Sept. 2018, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1961/468. The New York State Board of Regents authorized a short, voluntary prayer for recitation at the start of each school day. A group of organizations joined forces in challenging the prayer, claiming that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The New York Court of Appeals rejected their arguments.

“{{Meta.pageTitle}}.” {{Meta.siteName}}, Oyez, 27 Sept. 2018, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/310us586. In 1935, Lillian and William Gobitis were expelled from Pennsylvania public schools for refusing to salute the flag as part of a daily school exercise. The Gobitis children were Jehovah’s Witnesses and believed that saluting the flag was forbidden by the Bible. They argued the expulsions violated their First Amendment rights.

 

Protesting and The First Amendment, Fighting Words

The Fighting Words doctrine under the first amendment is defined as a limitation to the freedom of speech, as protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. But what are the limits that can be pushed before you cross the line over the gray area, and infringe upon others? Is protesting an example of inciting hate speech and fighting words? Under the fighting words doctrine, fightings words are split into two types of speech that are not protected, words that by their very utterance inflict injury, and speech that incites an immediate breach of the peace. This doctrine comes forth after the Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire case. This case was when Chaplinsky was immediately breaching the peace, and inciting utterance to inflict injury towards police officers, he was arrested. The Supreme Court decided to uphold the arrest, and therefore making the doctrine, originally the Chaplinsky clause, eventually they called it the the Fighting Words doctrine. In Topeka, Kansas, members of the Westboro Baptist Church like to protest at soldiers funerals, protesting the LGBTQ community, and blaming them for the soldiers deaths.

 

On February 1, 1949, in Chicago the Father Arthur Terminiello delivered a speech to his congregation where he bashed many different political groups, and racial groups, condemning his group to gather and riot. He was arrested for disturbing the peace, and for inciting a riot. It was because of his words that caused protest, and riots. Even though the court ruled in a 5 to 4 favor of Terminello, he still caused both a nuisance, and disrupted the peace. I think that inciting protests, and disrupting the peace should not be protected under the 1st Amendment. You should not get protection under the 1st amendment for disrupting everyday life for other people.

 

Sources:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaplinsky_v._New_Hampshire

https://www.thefire.org/misconceptions-about-the-fighting-words-exception/

https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/337us1

 

Should sports players be allowed to pray before the big game?

For many years being allowed to say a quick prayer before the big game is what hypes up the boys before they play. Whether it is just the fact that they feel protected after they say a prayer, or they just want that boost of confidence, like somebody else might have a say in the turning events of the game. Whatever reason they have for wanting to say that prayer they should be allowed to.  Then why can’t they? The supreme court ruled in a 6-3 vote that said students of a public school couldn’t lead a prayer before going out on the field (1)  It wasn’t the fact that the students were praying that the supreme court had an issue with, their issue was with the broadcasting of the praying. Saying that it broke the first amendment. That it violated the separation that was needed between religion and government. However, according to an attorney in Cincinnati, it is only not allowed when the coach calls the prayer. If for instance, the team members all decide to hold a prayer they are legally allowed to and protected to do so. (2) It’s no different than being required to allow Muslim people their prayer time in school. If a Muslim child who as a part of their religion needs to pray 5 times a day, the school cannot deny them the right to do so. they are protected under freedom of religion and cannot be discriminated because of that religion. (3) I believe that we should allow students to pray before a game if it’s something that they as a team feel they should do and all of them agree on praying. If it’s what’s giving some players the right vote of confidence they need we shouldn’t be the ones denying them of that.

  1. Cincinnati.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 1 Oct. 2018. https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/09/05/prayer-public-schools-must-student-led-voluntarily/1192954002/

  2. NewsHour Extra: School Prayer

    “Newshour Extra: School Prayer.” Pbs.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 1 Oct. 2018.https://www.pbs.org/newshour/spc/extra/features/jan-june00/prayerdecision.html

  3. Hart, H.

    Hart, Holland. “Prayer Breaks Present Difficult Religious Accommodation Issue.” Employers’ Lawyers Blog. N. p., 2016. Web. 1 Oct. 2018.Hart, H. Hart, Holland. “Prayer Breaks Present Difficult Religious Accommodation Issue.” Employers’ Lawyers Blog. N. p., 2016. Web. 1 Oct. 2018.

 

Funeral Protests: Selected Federal Laws and Constitutional Issues

 

Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights that we as Americans have.  In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees free speech, though the United States, places limits on this freedom. In a series of landmark cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has helped to define what types of speech are—and aren’t—protected under U.S. law. According to The New York Times, CNN and USA Today the Westboro Baptist Church has been protesting military funerals for many years. The Church has gained national attention from the press because many of these views are considered to be very extreme and hate related. The Westboro Baptist Church is recognized as one of the most well known hate groups in the world. Its primary message is that God hates the United States and is punishing the country for its acceptance of homosexuality. The Church chooses to protest the funerals of fallen soldiers to make the point that in their opinion soldiers are dying as part of God’s punishment  for this country’s sins.

Do you think the 1st Amendment should protect the Westboro Baptist Church or should it be an exception and not allow the church to protest veterans funerals? I believe that the 1st amendment should protect the Westboro Baptist Church because if the court did rule against the church it would go against the first amendment directly. Since the protesters were protesting legally they can say whatever they want as long as it is within the law. That may seem harsh but, in reality the funeral attendees were never actually close enough to even see the protests, The father of  Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder said in a statement from CNN that, as he passed the protest he only saw the tops of the Westboro Baptist Church’s  signs. However, he was exposed to the signs and to the Church’s message when he saw the protest covered by the evening news; and later when he searched online to see what they had to say about his son. In conclusion I am with the law and the 1st Amendment that everything the Westboro Baptist Church had done is legal and is not punishable by the law. Although I do not agree with what the church did I think it was very disrespectful of the family and of America itself to protest at a funeral and say those horrible things.

 

Works Cited:

  • Funeral Protests: Selected Federal Laws and Constitutional IssuesKathleen Ann Ruane Legislative Attorney March 22, 2011Anon

Fas.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

 

  • Westboro Baptist Church

“Westboro Baptist Church.” Huffingtonpost.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

Huffpost has an entire section devoted to the westboro baptist church and is constantly updating it with recent news.

 

 

  • Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.com

 

“Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.Com.” TIME.com. N. p., 2011. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

 

How should schools decide when and if praying is appropriate?

In 1962, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Engel vs. Vitale banned official school prayers (3). Today, many people, like Newt Gingrich, are fighting to pass a constitutional amendment that will allow such voluntary school prayer (1). According to the free exercise clause under the first amendment, all Americans have the right to whatever religious beliefs they choose. This idea comes into play when deciding whether schools should allow prayers. Since the people have the right to their own religious beliefs, praying should be strictly voluntary. If a student was forced into such activities, it would go against the freedom of religion under the Constitution. Praying being present in schools shouldn’t make students feel uncomfortable or forced to participate. In order to make praying an option, schools must consider when the time would be most appropriate to pray. For example, schools could have set times where students may pray if they wish to do so. For those who don’t wish to participate, they should be given freedom to use this downtime as they please. Having a schedule that works in this manner can prevent students from taking advantage of praying. Some students may use it as an excuse to get out of class or an assignment. Praying is a spiritual value that some students may practice at home, and it should be respected while at school. Also, it wouldn’t be very respectful for a student to up and leave during a lecture to go and pray. Praying shouldn’t interrupt the lesson plan or their learning. There has to be some restriction on when praying can occur, but fully taking away prayers strips students of their rights as Americans. Besides, more good than harm can come from praying in school. “Americans agree that our children have been hurt by violence, gangs, drugs, and teen sex and pregnancy. Prayer in school would not have any negative effects on the children of America” (1). The only time prayer could be a problem is when it starts to affect a student’s own academic performance, as well as their peers. Over the past few decades, polls have shown that the majority of Americans are in favor of allowing prayer in schools (1). Our government is based on majority rules, and the people have spoken, so they must be heard.

 

Works Cited

  1. Helms, Jesse A. and Ernest J. Istook Jr. “Should a School Prayer Constitutional Amendment Be Approved by Congress? PRO.” Congressional Digest, vol. 74, no. 1, Jan. 1995, p. 18. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=9501252933&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  2. Helms, Jesse A. and Bary W. Lynn. “Should a School Prayer Constitutional Amendment Be Approved by Congress? CON.” Congressional Digest, vol. 74, no. 1, Jan. 1995, p. 19. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=9501252935&site=ehost-live&scope=site
  3. “Highlights of Pending Senate “School Prayer” Proposals.” Congressional Digest, vol. 53, no. 1, Jan. 1974, p. 4. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=10576975&site=ehost-live&scope=site.