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.

Trump v. NFL

AP US Government and Politics

President Trump said that the NFL should fire athletes who kneel during the national anthem. What percentage of Americans agree that the NFL should fire these athletes?

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  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How surprising is this information?

  3. What is the big story the data tells?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. How does political party identification impact the data?

  6. Do you personally think the NFL should fire the athletes who kneel during the national anthem?

  7. Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who, starting in 2016, had been kneeling during the pre-game singing of the national anthem said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick explained. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Why do you think these athletes are kneeling?

  8. Do you think that peaceful non-violent protest is a good way to call attention to important issues?

  9. Voltaire has been credited with saying, "I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it." Whether or not you agree with why the athletes are kneeling, do you agree with their right to kneel?

  10. Last Friday, at a rally for Alabama senatorial candidate Luther Strange, who the President endorsed and who subsequently lost the primary election runoff, Donald Trump said, "Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out? He’s fired,’” He continued. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in the country.” Why do you think Trump took such a strong position against the NFL players who kneel during the national anthem?

  11. You may disagree with me, but before Trump weighed in on this issue last Friday, kneeling before a football game seemed to be slowly fading away. In fact, in the weekend before Trump's comment only 4 players kneeled or sat during the national anthem, and only two raised their fists. Now almost the entire league and owners are kneeling. Do you think Trump was wise to reignite this debate, and do you think he is winning the fight?

  12. Would you say that by calling a peaceful nonviolent protester a "son of a bitch," Trump is acting presidential?

  13. Should politicians talk about sports; also, should athletes talk about politics?

  14. Whether or not you agree with the NFL kneelers, do you think that their tactic worked and drew attention to their cause?

  15. Why do you think so many NFL owners, even some who had donated millions of dollars to the Trump campaign, kneeled with their players in solidarity?

  16. Explain your own decision about whether to kneel during the Star Spangled Banner?

  17. What is the national anthem about anyway?

  18. Do NFL owners have the right to fire their employees for political speech?

  19. Should NFL owners have the right to fire their employees for political speech?

  20. How has this issue impacted your own school or community?

  21. Is it fair to say that if most of the original kneelers had been white, Trump would not have attacked them?

  22. Explain whether Colin Kaepernick is more of a hero or a traitor:

  23. Do you think that Colin Kaepernick would be playing quarterback in the NFL right now had he never kneeled during the national anthem?

  24. How do you think the following demographics impacted opinion on this issue?

  • political party affiliation

  • age

  • race

  • gender

Create your survey with SurveyMonkey

Learning Extension

Read and listen to the Star Spangled Banner. Did you kneel?

Action Extension

The next time you go to a sporting event, notice who kneels (on the field or in the stands) during the national anthem. Ask five people why they didn't kneel and ask five people why they did kneel (if that many did), and share your observations in class or online.

Cartoon Extension

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Bonus Cartoon Questions

  1. What is the cartoonist's opinion?

  2. Do you agree with the cartoonist?


A little history from our friends at

Marches for civil rights during the 1960s were generally seen negatively at the time. As the Washington Post noted last year, most Americans didn’t approve of the Freedom Riders, the March on Washington in 1963 or other similar protests. In fact, many Americans thought that these protests would hurt the advancement of civil rights. In addition, but many Americans held mixed-to-negative views of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. In a 1966 Gallup survey, 63 percent of Americans gave King a negative score on a scale from -5 to +5. Now, the civil rights marches are viewed as major successes, and just 4 percent of Americans rated King negatively on that same scale in a 2011 Gallup poll.





Is it illegal to take a selfie with your ballot in your state?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this information?

  3. What is the big story this map tells?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What consequences are this?

  6. What patterns do you see in this data?

  7. Why do you think that is?

  8. Is this good news?

  9. Do you personally believe that it should be illegal to take a selfie with your ballot?

  10. Explain yourself:

  11. What did the Framers of the Constitution write about Selfies in the 1st Amendment?

  12. Okay, so this is sort of silly, but what does it tell us about federalism and elections?

  13. For real, let's just say that the Supreme Court ruled on this, what is an argument someone in support of allowing ballot selfies could make:

  14. Mississippi and Louisianippi are next-door neighbors. Why do you think they have different laws on voting and selfies?

  15. What advice would you give a voter about taking a ballot selfie? Add your advice to the comments section below or tweet it out with #selfieballot

  16. Explain whether you think a Trump or a Clinton supporter would be more likely to take a ballot selfie:

  17. Are you serious?

  18. If you are not old enough to vote create a pretend ballot, vote for your favorite candidate, and post a picture of your ballot selfie on Instagram or Snapchat.

  19. What is one method that could clear up the selfie ballot controversy and guarantee one ballot selfie rule for all Americans?

  20. Use the language of the Bill of Rights to write a 28th Amendment about Selfie Sticks in Voting Booths.

Learning Extension

Read the Vox article on ballot selfies! Yes, this is for real, and it's in Vox not in the Onion.

Action Extension

Make a poster/flyer for voters in your state with advice about voting and selfies. Post the flyer/poster at your school or share it on social media.