The Biden administration is cracking down on religious expression in public schools. The administration’s new ‘Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer and Religious Expression in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,’ released by the Department of Education, is causing concern among defenders of religious freedom and the freedom of expression. According to Decision Magazine, the purpose of the guidance is to “provide information on the current state of the law concerning constitutionally protected prayer and religious expression in public schools.”
The Biden administration released their new guidelines months after Coach Joe Kennedy won his case after he was fired for quietly praying on a school’s football field after games. Despite Coach Kennedy’s victory, some are worried that the Biden administration is taking steps that could lead to violations of First Amendment rights.
Desperately trying to meet their goal, the Biden administration is drawing from “outdated” Supreme Court cases, such as one as old as 1971 that “allowed for government involvement in religion as long as that involvement served a secular purpose, did not inhibit or advance religion, and did not result in an excessive entanglement of church and state.”
The First Liberty Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom are prepared to defend the First Amendment. Keisha Russell, counsel at the First Liberty Institute, reassured those concerned about the guidelines by promising to remain committed to “ensuring that any restriction placed on religious freedom by those outdated cases is restored to the fullest extent required by the First Amendment.”
Greg Chaufen, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, pointed out that the messaging of the new guidance is confusing. Chaufen said that the language of the new guidance appears to suggest that “schools have to purge religious messages from any student speech if the school in any way controls the student’s speech.” Another aspect covered by the guidance is prayer during free time. The guidance removed the section ensuring that students could pray during their lunch hour or free time.
While conservatives are weary of the Biden administration’s new guidance for prayer, progressives have praised the effort. Still, regardless of what the Biden administration is trying to do to limit the freedom of religion and expression, the Supreme Court will hold their actions accountable to the Constitution.