https://ethicsdaily.com/most-us-teens-see-examples-of-religious-faith-in-public-schools/

October 10, 2019

EthicsDaily.com Staff

Most US Teens See Examples of Religious Faith in Public Schools

Seeing expressions of religious faith in public schools is common for U.S. teens, according to a report published by Pew Research Center on Oct. 3.

Respondents ages 13-17 were presented a list of five faith expressions:

  • Wearing religious clothing or jewelry
  • Praying
    before a sporting event
  • Inviting someone to religious youth groups or services
  • Praying before eating lunch
  • Reading religious Scripture during the school day (not as part of a class)

A majority (67%) said they see at least one of these “often or sometimes,” with 26% seeing one expression often or sometimes, 33% (two or three expressions) and 8% (four or five expressions).

The most common religious expression observed by U.S. teens is “wearing clothing or jewelry with religious symbols,” with 53% saying they see this in their public schools often or sometimes.

Prayer before a sporting event was the second most visible expression, with 39% of respondents observing this often or sometimes.

The other three expressions were less common: inviting someone to a religious gathering (26% often or sometimes), praying before lunch (16%) and reading Scripture (8%).

Evangelical Protestant teenagers were most likely to wear religious clothing (38% did so often or sometimes), pray before lunch (39%) and invite friends to religious services (43%).

They tied with Roman Catholic teenagers for leaving school to attend religious activities (10%).

Teacher-led or school-sponsored prayer was declared unconstitutional in the 1962 Supreme Court ruling on Engel v. Vitale.

Despite this decades-long precedent, 8% of all teen respondents said they have had a teacher lead a prayer in class.

Respondents in the South were most likely to say this had taken place (12%), followed by those in the Midwest (7%), West (6%) and Northeast (2%).

Pew asked respondents to share their perspective on whether teacher-led prayer is constitutional and whether it is appropriate.

Responses varied by tradition, with evangelicals being most likely to say it was appropriate (68%), compared to 41% of all U.S. teens.

Evangelical teens were slightly less likely (79%) than the national average (82%) to affirm that teacher-led prayer in public school was unconstitutional, though this is within the 6.6% plus or minus error margin for the sampling group.

“Roughly half of teens who attend public school (53%) know that teacher-led prayer is prohibited and also find the practice inappropriate,” the report noted. “At the same time, roughly three in 10 (29%) know that it is unconstitutional but say that it is appropriate for a public schoolteacher to lead a class in prayer. Smaller shares think that teacher-led prayer is both legally permitted and appropriate (11%) or that it is permitted but inappropriate (4%).”

The full report is available here. Topline results are available here.

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