Can students pray and tell their friends about Jesus at school?

In a 1962 case (Engle v. Vitale), the Supreme Court ruled that schools could not direct and require prayer in the classroom. Some educators and parents think that this means religious expression cannot occur in public schools. However, the Court ruled only on organized or state-authorized times for prayer. It did not prohibit students from praying individually or in groups, or from talking about their faith during the school day.

Prayer can be viewed as an issue of free speech as well as freedom of religion. Students are free to speak to their Creator anytime and anywhere they want to as long as it does not disrupt others or interrupt educational activities.

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidelines on students' rights of religious expression on public school campuses. It stated, "The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment does not prohibit purely private religious speech by students. Students therefore have the same right to engage in individual or group prayer and religious discussion during the school day as they do to engage in other comparable activity. For example, students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray before tests to the same extent they may engage in comparable nondisruptive activities….Generally, students may pray in a nondisruptive manner when not engaged in school activities or instruction, and subject to the rules that normally pertain in the applicable setting.

Specifically, students in informal settings, such as cafeterias and hallways, may pray and discuss their religious views with each other, subject to the same rules of order as apply to other student activities and speech. Students may also speak to, and attempt to persuade, their peers about religious topics just as they do with regard to political topics. School officials, however, should intercede to stop student speech that constitutes harassment aimed at a student or a group of students."