Department of Education

Seven Religious Liberties

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Here are seven freedoms outlined by the U.S. Department of Education and quoted in Free to Speak: What the U.S. Department of Education says about public school students' religious liberties.

1.  You can pray, read your Bible or other religious material, and talk about your faith at school.

2.  You can organize prayer groups and religious clubs, and you can announce your meetings.

3.  You can express your faith in your class work and homework.

4.  Your teachers can organize prayer groups with other teachers.

5.  You may be able to go off campus to have religious studies during school hours.

6.  You can express your faith at a school event.

7.  You can express your faith at your graduation ceremony.

Download a one-page flyer of these liberties to post on a bulletin board in the teachers' lounge.

To read what you can do to promote greater religious freedom at your schools, click here.

To go to the original U.S. Department of Education Guidelines: click here.

January 16th is Religious Freedom Day - how to commemorate it.

U.S. Department of Education's Guidelines on Religious Expression in Public Schools

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These guidelines provide information regarding constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary and secondary schools. They address topics such as: 

  • Prayer During Noninstructional Time
  • Organized Prayer Groups and Activities
  • Teachers, Administrators, and other School Employees
  • Moments of Silence
  • Accommodation of Prayer During Instructional Time
  • Religious Expression and Prayer in Class Assignments
  • Student Assemblies and Extracurricular Events
  • Prayer at Graduation
  • Baccalaureate Ceremonies

Click here for the Guidelines

USDOE's "Secretary's Letter on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools"

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An excerpt from the letter: 

"The guidance clarifies the rights of students to pray in public schools. As stated in the guidance, '...the First Amendment forbids religious activity that is sponsored by the government but protects religious activity that is initiated by private individuals' such as students. Therefore, '[a]mong other things, students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray or study religious materials with fellow students during recess, the lunch hour, or other noninstructional time to the same extent that they may engage in nonreligious activities.' Public schools should not be hostile to the religious rights of their students and their families." - Rob Paige 

Click here for the full letter

USDOE's "Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools"

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Introduction

Section 9524 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ("ESEA") of 1965, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, requires the Secretary to issue guidance on constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary and secondary schools. In addition, Section 9524 requires that, as a condition of receiving ESEA funds, a local educational agency ("LEA") must certify in writing to its State educational agency ("SEA") that it has no policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer in public schools as set forth in this guidance.
The purpose of this guidance is to provide SEAs, LEAs, and the public with information on the current state of the law concerning constitutionally protected prayer in the public schools, and thus to clarify the extent to which prayer in public schools is legally protected. This guidance also sets forth the responsibilities of SEAs and LEAs with respect to Section 9524 of the ESEA. As required by the Act, this guidance has been jointly approved by the Office of the General Counsel in the Department of Education and the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice as reflecting the current state of the law. It will be made available on the Internet through the Department of Education's web site (www.ed.gov). The guidance will be updated on a biennial basis, beginning in September 2004, and provided to SEAs, LEAs, and the public.