Menu JTA Search

Guidelines for Religious Expression

The following are among the guidelines included in President Clinton’s memorandum on religious expression in public schools. The guidelines are being sent to all the nation’s school districts. ….* Students have the same right to engage in individual or group prayer and religious discussion during the school day as they do engage in other comparable activity. ….* School authorities may not structure or administer rules that discriminate against religious activity or speech. ….* Public school administrators and teachers may neither encourage nor discourage student participation in religious activities. Nor may they participate in such events with students. They may participate in private religious activities in faculty lounges. ….* Public schools may not provide religious instruction, but they may teach about religion, including the Bible or other Scripture. Schools may highlight secular aspects of religious holidays, but they may not observe them as religious events. They may also excuse students from classes they or their parents find religiously or otherwise objectionable. ….* Schools may dismiss students for religious instruction, as long as the classes are off school grounds. ….* Although schools must remain neutral on religion, they can teach basic moral values. ….* Although outsiders are not allowed to circulate religious literature, students may distribute such information, which must adhere to the time, place and manner restrictions schools impose on handing out nonschool literature. ….* Students may wear religious attire, such as yarmulkes, and clothes with religious slogans. Such slogans are subject to the same rules the schools apply to comparable messages. ….* Students may express religious beliefs in assignments, and make religious or anti-religious remarks in a classroom discussion or presentation as long as they are relevant to the topic at hand. Such work should be judged by ordinary academic standards. ….* The Equal Access Act allows secondary student religious clubs to meet at their schools, as long as the school permits noncurriculum activities during nonschool hours. Such meetings may include a prayer service, Bible reading or other worship exercise. ….* A public school must allow those student groups to use the school media, such as the newspaper, bulletin board or public address system to publicize their meetings on the same terms as other noncurriculum activities. ….* The Equal Access Act also allows religious groups to meet during lunch or other noninstructional time if a school allows other noncurriculum groups to meet during those times.

NEXT STORY