Prayer in School

AP US Government and Politics

In 1962, with its ruling in Engel v. Vitale, the US Supreme Court banned school sponsored prayer in public schools. Today, what portion of Americans approve of this ruling?

Critical Questions

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What surprised you about this data?

  3. What big trend do you see in this chart?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is a consequence of this trend?

  6. Predict what you believe these numbers will look like over the next 25 years.

  7. If the US Supreme Court were to revisit its ruling today, do you imagine it would reach the same conclusion?

  8. If the US held a referendum on this issue, how do you think the US would vote?

  9. How does that make you feel about direct versus representative democracy?

  10. Imagine that you were a Justice on today's US Supreme Court. Justice:_____________ Explain how you would rule in the case of Engel v. Vitale.

  11. How high do you think the wall should be separating church and state?

  12. Did you think that in the case of Engel v. Vitale, the defendant was sports broadcaster Dick Vitale of ESPN? Admit it!

  13. Let's say that you were a member of Congress and you were outraged at the ruling from Engel v. Vitale. what specifically could you do about it?

  14. And what specifically could the POTUS do about this issue?

  15. How does age impact opinion on school prayer?*

  16. They say that as long as there are tests in school there will be prayer in school. Is this true or false?

  17. Explain how you think people in the following groups would feel about the Supreme Court's ruling in Engel v. Vitale:

    typical U.S. liberal

    typical U.S. Libertarian

    Justice Earl Warren

    The interest group: Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

    The official platform of the Republican Party

    Donald J. Trump

    the average American

    Drumstick the Turkey who was pardoned by Donald Trump on Thanksgiving 2017.

Learning Extension

Read about the history of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment at the National Constitution Center.

Action Extension

Contact your school principal, superintendent, school board member, or school district lawyer and ask them to speak to your class about the separation of church and state and how it affects their job and your school.

Bonus Charts*

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Our World In Data Extension

Fill In The Blank Constitutional Convention Style

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Use the form below to fill tell us what Madison and Washington were thinking/saying.