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New Hampshire Prayer in Public Schools Laws

Individuals have the freedom to practice their religion without restraint. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees this right. It also guarantees freedom from any government sponsorship of any particular religion. 

These two important facets of the same constitutional amendment give us considerable tension. This tension is in the debate on prayer in public schools. Each side of the debate claims constitutional authority.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that public schools may not lead students in an official prayer at the start of each day. The Court also clarified that voluntary and non-disruptive prayer is permitted under the Constitution. State laws must reflect this decision.

Let's explore New Hampshire laws in more detail below.

Overview of Prayer in Public Schools  

Prayer in public schools sparks a complex debate in the United States. It touches on the delicate balance between upholding religious freedom and adhering to the separation of church and state. This discussion involves how schools respect the diverse religious beliefs of American students. At the same time, they must ensure that educational settings remain neutral and inclusive.

This concept revolves around providing an environment where students can express their beliefs. They can do so privately and non-disruptively either alone or in groups. School officials cannot lead or endorse any form of religious activity during the school day. 

This approach aims to protect the rights of all students to practice, or not practice, their faith. For example, students can take part in the recitation of the Lord's Prayer privately or in other forms of religious expression. This reinforces the principle that public schools are spaces for education rather than religious instruction.

Prayer in New Hampshire Public Schools at a Glance

In New Hampshire, the rules about prayers in public schools are similar to the rest of the country. The school district and school officials work to follow the law and respect every student's right to freedom of religion. This means that during school events, like football games or graduation ceremonies, school employees can't lead prayers.

While federal law largely governs school prayer in public schools, the New Hampshire statute allows for five minutes of silent time before the start of classes for the free exercise of religion. These moments of silence allow students to pray privately if they choose. 

To comply with federal law, state law specifically prohibits teacher supervision or school participation in any prayer.

See FindLaw's Religion at School section for more articles related to school prayer, including School Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance: Constitutionality.

Overview of New Hampshire Prayer in Public School Laws

Below find a chart explaining aspects of New Hampshire's laws in plain language.​

Applicable Code Section

New Hampshire § 189:1-b

What is Allowed?

On each school day, before classes, a period of not more than five minutes shall be available. Students can use this time to exercise their right to freedom of assembly. They can voluntarily take part in the exercise of religion if they want.

There shall be no teacher supervision of this free exercise of religion, nor shall there be any prescribed or proscribed form or content of prayer.

Note: State laws may change or be overruled at any time by enacting newly signed legislation or decisions from higher courts (both federal and state). While we strive to ensure the accuracy of these pages, you may also want to contact a New Hampshire education law attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Getting Legal Help

If you're in New Hampshire and have questions about prayer in public schools, it might be helpful to talk to someone who knows a lot about the law. This could be a lawyer with experience in education law and religious freedom. They can explain how New Hampshire laws work and help if someone believes either their or their child's rights to religious beliefs or free speech are being ignored by the school board or school teachers.

Consider consulting with an education law attorney about your case.

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