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 magistrate."


Morgan, Richard E., The Supreme Court and Religion (1972).

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