"We think that, by using its public school system to encourage recitation of the Regents’ prayer, the State of New York has adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause. There can, of course, be no doubt that New York’s program of daily classroom invocation of God's blessings as prescribed in the Regents’ prayer is a religious activity."
This case explores the legal concept of freedom of religion.
The First Amendment to the Constitution protects the right to religious worship yet also shields Americans from the establishment of state-sponsored religion. Courts are often asked to decide tough cases when there is a conflict between the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment.
The United States has a long history of infusing religion into its political practices. For instance, “In God We Trust” is printed on currency. Congress opens each session with a prayer. Before testifying in court, citizens typically pledge an oath to God that they will tell the truth. Traditionally, presidents are sworn in by placing their hand on a Bible. Congress employs a chaplain, and Supreme Court sessions are opened with the invocation “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.”
Public schools are bedrock institutions of U.S. democracy, where the teaching of citizenship, rights, and freedoms are common. This is a case about whether public schools may also play a role in teaching faith to God through the daily recitation of a government-endorsed, teacher-led prayer.