ADL Opposes Prayer in Florida Public Schools
Ft. Lauderdale, FL, April 12, 2005 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) strongly opposes school prayer bill (HB0355) currently pending in the Florida State Legislature.
ADL's opposition is based on the bill's language, which promotes religion in violation of the United States Constitution and the Florida Constitution. The legislation would allow prayers in the context of school invocations and benedictions and at secondary school graduations and non-compulsory assemblies. Similar bills have been defeated every year in the legislature.
Dennis G. Kainen, ADL's Florida Regional Board Chair said, "Today, the principal of separation of church and state is most threatened when in the context of public schools – the place in which Americans of all backgrounds first learn the critical values of democracy and pluralism."
Organized prayer in a public school setting, whether in the classroom or at a school-sponsored event, is unconstitutional. The only type of prayer that is constitutionally permissible is private, voluntary student prayer that does not interfere with the school's educational mission.
"We live in a time of increasing religious and cultural diversity in America and it is therefore critical that public schools accommodate students from all backgrounds and not foist on them the religious beliefs of the majority culture," said Lawrence J. Miller, ADL Palm Beach Regional Chair.
The dispute over school prayer is one of the nation's longest-running controversies. For nearly 40 years the United States Supreme Court and the federal courts held that students must not be given the impression that any one faith in particular, or religion in general, are officially sanctioned or preferred by their public schools.
ADL shares the American ideal of religious freedom as originally drafted by the framers of the Constitution. They specifically rejected all language that would have authorized government influence over personal choices of religion.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.