Fairfax, VA asked in Education Law for Virginia

Q: Can public schools start the day with a "prayer-like" service? They claim to be honoring the US, but it's sketchy.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Jay Braddock Jackson
Jay Braddock Jackson
  • Education Law Lawyer
  • Fredericksburg, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: There is really not enough information in your question. In Virginia, school officials may not impose prayers or organize prayer events, Additionally, a school's public meeting space or school auditorium may not be turned into a local church for religious celebrations.

The First Amendment protects the idea of prayer in public schools, but it also prohibits doing so in a way that can make anyone feel excluded. Students absolutely have the right to express their religious beliefs, but the school cannot adopt any official religion and may not favor any one particular belief system. To work around these limitations, Virginia has drafted laws that allow for a minute of silence for students to meditate or pray silently.

Whether the "service" you are concerned with is indeed "prayer-like" is fact specific. Additionally, the question may be whether it is a "service" and not whether it is prayer-like. I recommend that you contact an Education Lawyer to discuss the specific facts of your case.

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