School Prayer, 1963-2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

A major Supreme Court decision in 1963 continues to shape the debate over school prayer and religious freedom in the US. Ellery Schempp was the student who sparked the case when he protested the prayers said every day at his public school; Stephen Solomon’s new book, Ellery’s Protest, analyzes the Supreme Court decision.

Weigh in: Do you think prayer has a place in public schools?

Ellery’s Protest is available for purchase at


Ellery Schempp and Stephen Solomon

Comments [10]

Bernard Shurgan from Oceanside ny

I found the name of a nephew of mine(Micheal Shurgan) in your letters of nov.12th 2007.
it WAS IN REPLY TO A QUESTION OF THE lEONARD Lopate show. Is there some way I can contact that person through you.?
Bernard Shurgan

Mar. 17 2008 02:14 PM
Andrea from Scarsdale, NY

I was invited into my daughter's 2nd grade public school classroom to talk about Christmas. I was prohibited, however, from saying that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. I could talk about baking cookies and decorating the tree, but I was prohibited from mentioning the religious significance of Christmas.

How these rulings are being implemented is a problem.

Nov. 12 2007 12:54 PM
TM from Brooklyn

JFK had an excellent response- Nobody is prevented from praying anywhere, at any time. Pray quietly, in your own mind.

Nov. 12 2007 12:30 PM
stephen sellinger from Rockland County

The web-site below clearly demonstrates the decidedly non-Christian genesis of our nation.

Our Diest founding fathers were informed by the philosophers of the enlightenment.

I pray (although that is not the right term) but follow no formal religion.


Nov. 12 2007 12:29 PM
Michael Shurgan from Mahwah, NJ

Prayer does not belong in school. In the early 60s my public school attempted to have me expelled for refusing to repeat the Lord's prayer, although my family prcticed no religion at the time and supported me in my refusal.

I had occassions on which the teacher actually threw a Bible at my head for refusing to pray and some of my classmates were forbidden by the parents to associate with me. I even received a few death threats from fellow first graders.

I think prayer is a personal matter and those of us who want to pray should do it at home and in places of worship, not ion school.

Not only is it the wrong place, but it siscriminates against other religions (especially polytheists) and atheists. Schools should not teach discrimination by showing one religion as normative.

Nov. 12 2007 12:28 PM

From the U.S. Treay of Tripoli (1796), the U.S. has declared it's NOT a Christian nation:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Nov. 12 2007 12:26 PM
Norm Fid from Freeport NY

How do your guests feel about a prayer room for muslims in a public NYC school or a school devoted to Muslim culture as part of the NYC system?

Nov. 12 2007 12:21 PM

I agree with the earlier post, prayer has no place in public schools...end of story.

Ellery is right, this country was NOT founded as a Christian nation, it was founded as a constitutional nation and any cursory glance at the writings of the founding father's writings reveal that plain and obvious fact

Nov. 12 2007 12:21 PM
patricia compton from Westchester, NY

I'd like to know how much the guests Unitarian upbringing affected his decision to protest. Unitarian Universalisn is the only religion that encourages poeple to think for themselves. Other religions encourage following authority and this has contributed to creating a population that that is reluctant to question and even protest against political authority when it has gone astray.

Nov. 12 2007 12:16 PM

Prayer has no place in public schools. Period.

Nov. 12 2007 12:08 PM

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