Religion in Public Schools: 7 Religious Things You Can Still Do
There’s a perception that bringing religion into schools in any form is always prohibited, resulting in serious consequences to both teachers and students who mention it. But there’s actually more room for faith in public schools than you may realize. For instance:
Students can express their faith at school, unless it’s disruptive or coercive. They can comment about their own religious views in class or in assignments as long as it’s related to the discussion.
Students can pray alone or in groups of other students as long as the school doesn’t sponsor the event and others aren’t pressured to participate.
If a school allows community groups to rent or use its facilities after hours, then it must give religious groups the same access.
While public schools and teachers can’t celebrate religious holidays or promote religious practices, they can certainly teach about them. Religious traditions have greatly influenced history, literature, art, and music. Those traditions continue to contribute to culture today, and teachers can discuss their influence so long as it’s objective rather than devotional.
A public school’s approach to religion in the curriculum must be academic, not proselytizing. Still, choirs can sing and orchestras can play sacred music, book lists can include religiously themed literature, and drama students can enact religious plays—all as part of the school’s academic program, especially when intermixed with secular works.
In schools that allow students to form noncurriculum-related groups, religious students can form religious groups or clubs.
Teachers can help create safe environments where students feel comfortable appropriately expressing their religious beliefs and where nobody is bullied for their views.
To learn about additional ways, look online for guidelines from national organizations and contact your local district for specific policies in your area.
Religious Freedom: Why It Matters
Learn how a lack of religious freedom can affect religious schools.
What U.S. Parents Should Know
Read “A Parent’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools” prepared by the National PTA, the First Amendment Center, and the Freedom Forum.
What U.S. Teachers Should Know
Read “A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools” published by the First Amendment Center and endorsed by many teachers’ organizations, associations of school administrators, and faith groups.