Mississippi Prayer in Public Schools Laws
Few topics demonstrate the tension of the First Amendment like prayer in public schools. One the one hand, the government can’t interfere with religious exercise. On the other hand, it can’t be seen as endorsing religion.
This has been the source of constant debate, both in the Magnolia State and nationwide, with just about everyone having an opinion on the matter. And even the courts have had some trouble sorting out when, where, and how prayer is allowed in public schools. Here is a brief overview of prayer in public school laws in Mississippi.
Prayer in Public Schools
As noted above, figuring out whether religious prayer is allowed in public schools has spawned both heated national debate and quite a few contested court cases. This is partially because the Constitution seems split on the matter. On one hand, the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech Clause prohibits the government (and thereby state-funded schools) from interfering with the free exercise of religion. On the other hand, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government (again, including schools) from establishing or sponsoring a specific religion.
States have attempted to balance this issue with varying prayer in public schools laws, and several of these statutes have faced significant legal challenges. Mississippi’s law protects voluntary prayer at school-related student events, while being careful to note the protection should not be construed as the promotion of any religion or religious belief.
Prayer in Public Schools Laws in Mississippi
Mississippi’s prayer in public schools statutes are listed in the table below.
Applicable Code Section
Mississippi Code 37-13-4.1
What is Allowed?
Student-initiated voluntary prayer permitted on school property
Parents, schools, and legislators continue to debate the kinds of religious activities allowed in public schools. Mississippi’s school prayer statute was passed relatively recently, in 2013, so it is unclear how it will be put into practice, whether there will be legal challenges to the law, and, if so, what the ramifications of those challenges will be. The Supreme Court has been fairly clear that students are allowed to pray in public schools, as long as the prayers are not school-sponsored and the prayers do not interfere with other students’ schoolwork.
Mississippi Prayer in Public Schools Laws: Related Resources
The relationship between public education and religion continues to evolve. You can consult a Mississippi education attorney if you would like legal assistance regarding a school prayer matter. You can also find more resources and information on this topic by visiting FindLaw's section on Religion at School.
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