It all started in 1962 when New York state law required kids in public schools to start the day with the Pledge and a prayer.
Some people opposed the sponsorship of religion in public schools. Stephen Engel was one of these people. He was Jewish and led the fight against such things occurring in classrooms.
Other parents stood behind him in his fight, but not everyone supported him. William Vitale, president of the school board, did not support. Little did they know their disagreement would go way beyond their school.
Engel argued on the basis of separation of church and state and a violation of the 1st ammendment. Vitale on the other hand, claimed that they were not establishing religion because they were providing a prayer only for those who wanted to say it.
The New York school thought they were in the right by providing a nonsectarian prayer for those who chose to participate, but the Supreme Court disagreed.
“We think that by using its public school system to encourage recitation of the Regents' Prayer, the State of New York has adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause. There can, of course, be no doubt that New York's program of daily classroom invocation of God's blessings¦in the Regents' Prayer is a religious activity"
“To those who may subscribe to the view that because the Regents' official prayer is so brief and general [it] can be no danger to religious freedom, it may be appropriate to say in the words of James Madison, the author of the First Amendment 'Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?'“ said Justice Hugo Black.
The Supreme Court ultimately decided that prayers in a public school were unconstitutional. There would be no more required religion in any public school nationwide. THE END