Trump Pledges to Protect ‘Right to Pray’ in Public Schools

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Updated guidance reaffirms First Amendment protections and provides new pathways for complaints.

Days after promising to “safeguard students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools” in an evangelical campaign rally, President Donald Trump backed school prayer and proposed new rules for religious organizations receiving federal funding. The announcements correspond with Thursday’s annual White House proclamation for Religious Freedom Day.

This is first updated guidance on school prayer from the Education Department since 2003. The directive orders states to verify that school districts have no policies limiting constitutionally protected prayer and to refer violators to the Education Department. That’s much like the earlier guidance, but the directive goes further in requiring states to provide ways for making complaints against schools.

Students can pray on their own or together during lunch or other free times, for example, and student speakers can pray at assemblies or sports games as long as they weren’t chosen to speak based on their religious perspectives, according to the guidance.

The president hosted more than a dozen students and teachers in the Oval Office for the announcement, including Teachers Who Pray founder Marilyn Rhames, who CT featured in 2018. Her organization gathers teachers for prayer and spiritual formation outside of classroom instruction time.

“There’s a myth out there that what Teachers Who Pray does … is not legal, and it absolutely is,” she said during the presidential gathering. “I’m here to tell teachers we need to pray … We need to do what we have to do for our kids because if we’re not strong, we can’t make them strong.”

Public schools have been barred from leading …

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