According to the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, everyone in the United States has the right to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all. The first amendment was meant to keep the government out of religion and guarantee the separation of church and state. This is one of the main reasons why the United States has avoided a lot of religious conflicts that have been responsible for the fall of other nations. There is also the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. This clause gives you the right to worship or not as you choose. You cannot be penalized because of your religious beliefs by the government.
This seems to be a hot topic for debate. Half of the nation does not see a problem with incorporating religion with schooling while the other half does. Unfortunately, since public schools are run by the government, they must obey the First Amendment. The schools are allowed to teach about the influences of religion in history and such, but they cannot promote religious beliefs in any way. The only schools that are allowed to do so without criticism are private and parochial schools because they are not government run. Although, even though public schools frown upon religion, students who need to be excused from a school activity because of conflict with their religious beliefs, may do so.
This is another debate that is swirling around the internet, should a teacher be allowed to start the day with a prayer? No. Since 1992, when the Supreme Court decided that graduation prayers are unconstitutional in public schools, it no longer exists. If teachers started doing this, it would give non-believers or the kids of other faiths the feeling that their participation is required. The same goes for student-led prayer, it is unconstitutional. If a student wants hold a private alternative event that includes a prayer, such as a baccalaureate, they can do so but it has to remain off of school grounds.
So, the million-dollar question, is it ever okay to pray in school? Absolutely. Each individual student has the right to pray whenever they please, as long as it does not disrupt anyone else. They cannot try to force others to join in. If a student has been told that they cannot pray at all during school hours, they have the right to exercise their religion is being violated.
We have all gone into a school and have seen decorations set up for Christmas, Easter, Hannukah and Thanksgiving, is this acceptable? It depends. Making stockings for Christmas, eggs for Easter and dreidels for Hannukah are okay because over a period of time, these have become secular customs. If a student wanted to put on a Nativity pageant, this would be unconstitutional because of its religious meaning.
In public schools, there are no bibles allowed, no praying unless it is to yourself or outside of school and there are no Nativity pageants. Do you think this is unconstitutional? Many people do because back in the day, there was prayer, bible verses and more. This is what religious freedom is all about. You are free to choose to worship or not.