A Happy 50th Birthday to Engel v. Vitale!
Today marks the 50th anniversary since the Supreme Court handed down the historic Engel v. Vitale decision, which ended the practice of prayer in public schools. This case was the first instance in which the Court interpreted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to eliminate prayer in public schools. Even before the Supreme Court handed down this decision, the Reform Movement was on record as opposing prayer in public schools, and our Movement has continued to speak out on this issue and fight to protect the religious freedom of all school children. As the URJ resolved in 1961: “A vigilant maintenance of church-state separation is the best safeguard of religious liberty for all Americans.”
The world of constitutional law often resides high above public discourse within the white marble walls of the U.S. Supreme Court, but the basics are clear and known to many: Sixty-eight percent of Americans say they understand the proper relationship between government and religion, as defined by the U.S. Constitution. However, what is even more promising, is that 89% of Americans recognize that the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution in a manner that does not allow prayer, even non-sectarian prayer, in public schools.
Just as the Supreme Court made history when it decided Engel, so to will history be made this week as the Justices hand down decisions concerning the fate of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and Arizona’s immigration law, S.B. 1070.
Keep up to date on the latest Supreme Court happenings on RACblog as we follow these historic decisions.