Trump Announces Steps to Protect Prayer in Schools
President Trump took historic steps on Thursday to ensure children can pray in public schools, cautioning that federal funds could be lost to schools that violate rights to religious expression.
“In a sacred principle of our Republic that government must never stand between the people and God,” Trump told a group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim students and teachers in the Oval Office to commemorate National Religious Freedom Day. “Yet, in public schools around the country, authorities are stopping students and teachers from praying, sharing their faith, or following their religious beliefs.”
In 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school-sponsored prayer in public schools violated the First Amendment, although students may pray privately and join religious clubs after school hours.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 16, 2020
Trump did not propose changes to the law, but his administration is issuing strong, new guidance to protect religious liberty in public schools.
“The right of students and teachers to freely exercise their faith will always be protected, including the right to pray,” he said.
The Department of Education will send reminders to all state officials, reminding them that no one inside a school can be discriminated against for practicing their religious rights.
“It is totally unacceptable,” Trump stated. “You see it on the football field. You see it so many times where they’re stopped from praying. And we are doing something to stop that.”
Trump’s administration updated 2003 guidance about prayer in schools while streamlining a complaint process which students can use upon cases of discrimination.
Federal agencies will also receive direction to ensure that states and grant recipients do not discriminate based on religion.
Trump told the Oval Office audience that he’s taking these steps, “So you have the right to pray.”
“And that’s a very important and powerful right,” he said. “There’s nothing more important than that, I would say.”