A Guide to Keeping Schools Secular
School events, including graduations, may not include prayer. For more than 50 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently struck down prayer in public schools, beginning in 1962. Engel.
Students have a constitutional right not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. Nor can students be required to stand or otherwise be penalized for exercising this right.
The distribution of bibles to students on public school property is prohibited.
Schools may not teach religious doctrine, including creationism and “intelligent design.”
Schools may not ban atheist/ secular clubs if other non-curricular clubs are allowed.
School events, including graduations, should not be held in houses of worship. Public school programming, including graduations, testing and recitals, should not occur in churches, because any student could “reasonably conclude that the District would only choose such a proselytizing environment aimed at spreading religious faith . . . if the District approved of the Church’s message.” Elmbrook.
Religious displays are not permitted in public schools.
Schools may not give religious groups unique access to school property to befriend, proselytize or give presentations to students.
It is a principle of our public educational system that every activity in a public school ought to have an educational purpose. Elementary school music classes and high school choruses are a frequent source of school First Amendment violations. The line is crossed when that purpose becomes devotional, proselytizing or religiously coercive.
Public schools that host religious events often excuse them by calling them “voluntary.”
Public schools are not permitted to allow religious ministries or any faith-based organization into the schools to teach abstinence-only sex education programs.
Public schools must take a hard stance against forcing students to watch harmful Christian propaganda and anti-evolution movies that have no educational merit.
Public schools should never use religious themed destinations for student field trips.
Berger v. Rensselaer Cent. Sch. Corp., 982 F.2d 1160 (7th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 113 S.Ct. 2344 (1993)