Does the reading of a nondenominational prayer at the start of the school day violate the "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment?
Steven Engel was a parent in New Hyde Parks, New York. He and a group of parents objected to the recitation of a prayer.
William Vitale was the president of the School Board and was sued by Engel and the group of parents. He argued that recitation was voluntary and not in violation of the First Amendment.
Official prayer in public schools is a violation of the Constitution which states "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.." The decision of Supreme Court in the case of Engel v Vitale was delivered by Justice Hugo Black in 1962. He was joined by Warren, Douglas, Clark, Harlan and Brennan.
The Establishment Clause was only meant to prohibit the establishment of a state sponsored church, such as the Church of England and not prohibit all types of government involvement with religion. He found that the nondenominational; nature of the prayer and the "absentee" provision removed constitutional challenges.