BJC applauds Biden administration school prayer guidance
“The government should never tell students how, when or whether to pray.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media contact: Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons / [email protected]
WASHINGTON – Today, the United States Department of Education released updated guidance on prayer and religious expression in public schools. The Department also released a transmittal letter and Secretary Cardona tweeted out a video. BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) has long been a leader in protecting religious liberty for all in our public schools. BJC agrees with the Biden administration that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton did not upend the long-standing consensus on prayer in public schools.
Holly Hollman, general counsel and associate executive director of BJC, issued the following statement:
“The government should never tell students how, when or whether to pray. The U.S. Department of Education’s new guidance does a good job protecting students of all faiths and students who don’t practice a faith. It’s clear that the Biden administration understands the vital role that public schools play in ensuring faith freedom for all students.
While occasionally hard questions arise, most debates over legal and constitutional protections for religious expression in public schools have been settled for a long time. The Biden administration’s guidance is in line with that from prior administrations from both parties, going back to the Clinton years. The Biden administration is correct to note that religious freedom protections were not altered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton. While we were critical of the decision, the Court’s approval of a coach’s private, brief prayer while his players were otherwise occupied should not be read as opening the door to more government-sponsored prayer in public schools.
Students should be free to express their religious beliefs by praying, wearing religious clothing and accessories, and discussing their faith with their peers. Religious groups should be free to meet on school grounds, and educators should teach about religion as an academic subject. Religious liberty in public schools is safeguarded by forbidding teachers and other government employees from leading students in religious exercises while on duty or otherwise coercing students in matters of religion.”
Amanda Tyler, executive director of BJC, criticized the rhetoric surrounding the Trump administration’s similar guidance in 2020, noting that the administration’s inflammatory statements “sounded a false alarm about the status of prayer in public school, echoing the claims of Christian nationalism.”
BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) is an 87-year-old religiously based organization working to defend faith freedom for all and protect the institutional separation of church and state in the historic Baptist tradition. BJC is the home of the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign.