School Prayer Outlawed (June 26, 1963)

“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our Country. Amen.”

This is one of the generic prayers school children used to pray to begin their school day. For hundreds of years, American school children participated in a prayer to start their day and learn human values and principles from the Old and New Testaments.

That is, until June 15, 1962 – when school prayer was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

For decades there had been occasional legal challenges to school prayer, but eventually one case found legal footing. This particular case centered upon a non-sectarian prayer that New York public schools had employed since 1955. This family was upset…not by the prayer language itself but rather by how children were told to lower their heads and fold their hands in prayerful posture. “[It’s] not the way we say prayers,” the father argued.

So, the family sued New York state.

At the time, ninety-seven percent of Americans believed in God and had no issues with school prayer.

It’s why this SCOTUS ruling radically forged a new secular standard and precedent of legal protections for religious minorities. It allowed the “offended” (no matter how slight) to overrule the religious majority by invoking the “establishment clause” in the U.S. Constitution (that Congress cannot make a law “establishing” a religion). Never mind that in this New York case, nor the hundreds of court cases since this 1962 ruling, did Congress create, make or pass any law establishing Christianity as the official religion of the United States of America.

A year later the Supreme Court further ruled against Bible reading in school, citing the 1962 case as precedent. U.S. public schools could no longer read biblical texts nor invoke prayer to begin the learning day. In a matter of a year, religion (namely Christianity) was systematically segregated from public education. And with that ruling, post-1960 school children no longer acknowledged their dependence upon God nor sought Divine blessing upon themselves, their parents, teachers or nation. And a simple comparison between a classroom in 1960 and today reveals the terrible price we’ve paid for eliminating biblical values and principles, as well forgetting America’s unique spiritual history. Today’s schools look more like prisons than educational institutions. Today’s kids (as well as their parents and grandparents) are more profane, violent, disrespectful, angry, confused, broken, addicted, hateful, sexual, psychotic, ignorant and lost.

Of course, this S.C.O.T.U.S. ruling in 1962 was hardly unanimous.

Dissenting Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart penned: “With all respect, I think the Court has misapplied a great constitutional principle. I cannot see how an ‘official religion’ is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it. On the contrary, I think that to deny the wish of these school children to join in reciting this prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation.” (1)

Unfortunately, these two court rulings didn’t satisfy the secularists.

In the coming decades they’d launch new legal grievances against crosses, Ten Commandments, Nativity scenes, sports and graduation prayers, and other religious (read: Christian) expressions in the public arena. This single 1962 court decision, with no precedent, radically put America on a secular path. Our spiritual – Judeo-Christian – values were slowly scrubbed, erased and removed. Today, the secularists argue America is (and always was) a plural, multi-religious culture. It’s wrong to give Christianity precedence, they say. However, that’s not what our Founding Fathers felt.

Our forefathers recognized America’s ability to survive and thrive demanded a moral, religious and Christian people.


  • Founding educator and historian Jedidiah Morse preached in 1799: “The foundations which support the interests of Christianity, are also necessary to support a free and equal government like our own. In all those countries where there is little or no religion, or a very gross and corrupt one, as in Mahometan (Muslim) and Pagan countries, there you will find, with scarcely a single exception, arbitrary and tyrannical governments, gross ignorance and wickedness.” Morse concluded that without the “kindly influence of Christianity” there would be no “civil freedom…political and social happiness.” (2)


  • Founding educator Benjamin Rush opined, “The Bible, when not read in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life…the Bible…should be read in our schools in preference to all other books because it contains the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which is calculated to produce private and public happiness.” (3)


  • University president and school text author William McGuffrey stated “The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God…on its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.”(4)


  • Founder Noah Webster wrote “The Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children under a free government ought to be instructed. No truth is more evident than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”(5)

Maybe that’s why American schools taught the four “R’s” (religion, reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic) for hundreds of years.

Without Christian practice and instruction, our political and educational leaders believed our “republican forms of government” would fail. In reviewing the historical degradation of American values and morality, national disrespect and incivility, general cultural decay and widespread ignorance of our national Christian heritage, a direct line can easily be traced to this particular SCOTUS ruling in June 1962.

This legal ruling was, after all, the first overt and unprecedented step to remake America into a non-religious people. That’s when we began to forget who we were and what we valued. Even more indirectly, it’s also when religion, specifically Christianity (our founding religion), was segregated and silenced in our national culture.

Since this anti-religious SCOTUS ruling in 1962, America has slowly descended into social disorder. Our homes, schools, and workplaces have become agnostic spaces. As Americans became more secular, we also grew more divisive, uncivil, litigious, undisciplined, violent, hedonistic, narcissistic and profane. We became modern Romans not historic Americans. Jeremiah prophesied about his people: “Yet my people have forgotten me; they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient paths.” (Jeremiah 1:15)

America is still a unique, blessed nation, but it’s not invincible. If it’s going to be destroyed, it will happen from within.

It’s why June 15, 1962 mattered.

And still does.




1. As quoted in “School Prayers: Hearings Before the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives,” 88th Congress, Second Session, June 3, 1964, Part One: p. 501.

2. Jedidiah Morse, “A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America,” Delivered at Charlestown, April 25, 1799, The Day of the National Fast (MA: Printed by Samuel Etheridge, 1799), p. 11.

3. Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas & Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), pp. 94, 100, “A Defence of the Use of the Bible as a School Book.”

4. From the forward to the 1836 McGuffrey’s Reader, “Our Christian Heritage,” Letter from Plymouth Rock (Marlborough, NH, The Plymouth Rock Foundation), p. 5.

5. Noah Webster, A Collection of Papers on Political, Literary, and Moral Subjects (New York: Webster and Clark, 1843), p. 291, from his “Reply to a Letter of David McClure on the Subject of the Proper Course of Study” in the Girard College, Philadelphia. New Haven, October 25, 1836.

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