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Utah Prayer in Public Schools Laws

It feels like the issue has been in the news constantly: are children allowed to pray in public schools? And are public schools allowed to lead students in prayer? Parents, schools, legislators, and even courts all have their own opinions on the matter, both in the Beehive State and nationwide.

So how has the legal system sorted out when, where, and how prayer is allowed in public schools? This is an introduction to prayer in public school laws in Utah.

Prayer in Public Schools

Part of the reason why prayer in public schools has produced such a heated national debate is because the Constitution itself is somewhat split on the matter. On the one hand, the Freedom of Speech Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from interfering with the free exercise of religion, and this prohibition extends to state-funded schools. And on the other hand, the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause also prohibits the government, and state-funded schools, from establishing or sponsoring any specific religion.

States have enacted varying prayer in public schools laws in an attempt to balance this issue, and several of these statutes have faced significant legal challenges. Utah follows many other states in allowing teachers to provide for a period of silence, during which students may pray if they wish.

Prayer in Public Schools Laws in Utah

The table below lists Utah’s prayer in public schools statutes.

Applicable Code Section

Utah Code 53A-11-901.5: Period of Silence

What is Allowed?

Teacher may provide for the observance of a period of silence

The debate regarding what the kinds of religious activities allowed in public schools, continues, but Utah’s school prayer statute is fairly solid. Passed in 1997, it adheres to the Supreme Court’s directive that students are allowed to pray in public schools, as long as the prayers do not interfere with other students’ schoolwork and the prayers are not school-sponsored. “Moment of silence” laws, as they are known, have generally been found to properly balance the state’s obligation to refrain from interfering with the free exercise of religion while also refraining from endorsing any specific religion.

Related Resources for Utah Prayer in Public Schools Laws

State laws regarding the relationship between public schools and religion continue to change over time. If you would like legal assistance regarding a school prayer matter, you can consult with a Utah education attorney. You can also find additional articles and information by visiting FindLaw's section on Religion at School.

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