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Religion in classroom? Pew confirms it's still there

WND Staff

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Half of teen students in public schools in South see others praying before sporting events

There's an old saying that no matter what the courts say, there will be prayer in schools as long as there are tests.

A new Pew surveyof teens finds a variety of religious practice taking place in public schools.

About 4 in 10 teens who attend public schools, for example, say they commonly -- either "often" or "sometimes" -- see other students praying before sporting events at school. That includes about half of teenage public schoolers who live in the South.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that teachers and administrators were forbidden from leading prayers in public schools. In 2000, the judges barred school districts from sponsoring student-led prayers at football games.

But the rulings also have affirmed that students have First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion and may voluntarily pray before, during and after school.

Pew asked a nationally representative sample of more than 1,800 teenagers (ages 13 to 17) about the kinds of religious activity they or other students engage in during the course of the school day.

Roughly half of U.S. teens in public school say they "commonly see other students in their school wearing religious clothing (such as an Islamic headscarf) or jewelry with religious symbols (such as a necklace with a Christian cross or a Jewish Star of David)."

"About a quarter of teens who attend public schools say they often or sometimes see students invite other students to religious youth groups or worship services. About one-in-six (16%) often or sometimes see other students praying before lunch in their public school. And 8% report that they commonly see other teenagers reading religious scripture outside of class during the school day," Pew said.

Pew created an index of five types of expressions or activities, including wearing religious clothing or jewelry, praying before a sporting event, inviting other students to youth groups or services, praying before eating lunch and reading religious scripture during the school day.

Eight percent of teens in public schools say they commonly see all five or four out of five, Pew said. "A third of students say they often or sometimes see two (20%) or three (13%) of these forms of religious expression in their public school.

"Twenty-six percent say they commonly see just one. And a third of public school teens (32%) say they rarely or never see any of these religious expressions by fellow students (or they did not answer the questions)," the report said.

Pew also asked about two kinds of teacher-led, classroom activities. It found that 8% of public school students say they've had a teacher lead the class in prayer, which courts have forbidden, and another 8% say a teacher has read from the Bible, as literature, which the courts have approved.

"Nationwide, roughly four-in-ten teens (including 68% of evangelical Protestant teens) who go to public school say they think it is 'appropriate' for a teacher to lead a class in prayer. Some of the teens who express this view are unaware of the Supreme Court’s ruling. But most know what the law is; 82% of U.S. teens in public schools (and 79% of evangelical teens) correctly answer a factual question about the constitutionality of teacher-led prayer in public school classrooms. Just 16% of teens incorrectly believe that teacher-led prayer is allowed by law, far fewer than the 41% who say it is 'appropriate,'" Pew said.

"Put another way, roughly half of teens who attend public school (53%) know that teacher-led prayer is prohibited and also find the practice inappropriate. At the same time, roughly three-in-ten (29%) know that it is unconstitutional but say that it is appropriate for a public school teacher to lead a class in prayer."