Engel v. Vitale
In the case of Engel v. Vitale (1962) the Supreme Court of the
United States invalidated New York State's classroom prayer
requirement. The New York State Board of Regents had established
the practice of reciting a prayer in classrooms at the beginning
of each school day. The prayer, composed by the Regents, read as
follows: "Almighty god, we acknowledge our dependence upon thee,
and we beg thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and
our country." Steven Engel and other parents brought suit
against the board of education of a New York school district,
pointing out that the prayer violated the First Amendment's
prohibition on the establishment of religion.
Justice Black, in an opinion in favor of Engel, maintained that
the state's prayer program officially established the religious
beliefs embodied in the Regent's prayer. He observed that
"neither the fact that the prayer may be denominationally
neutral nor the fact that its observance...is voluntary can
serve to free it from the limitations of the Establishment
Clause." The cause, said Black, was an expression by the framers
of the Constitution that "religion is too personal, too sacred,
too holy, to permit its 'unhallowed perversion' by a civil
Morgan, Richard E., The Supreme Court and Religion (1972).
to Shy David's School Prayer Page.