A nonprofit legal organization specializing in religious liberty is raising concerns about elements of the latest guidance from the Department of Education (DOE) regarding religious expression in public schools.
The DOE released the guidance titled “Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer and Religious Expression in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools” on Monday.
“The purpose of this updated guidance is to provide information on the current state of the law concerning constitutionally protected prayer and religious expression in public schools,” the DOE said. The guidance stipulated that school employees may neither encourage nor discourage private prayer or other religious activity, though they are permitted to engage in private prayer themselves.
Keisha Russell, counsel at the Plano-based First Liberty Institute, praised the guidance for reflecting the Supreme Court precedent established in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a landmark case involving their client Joe Kennedy, a Washington state high school football coach.
The Supreme Court effectively overturned Lemon v. Kurtzman in June 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Russell raised concern to Fox News Digital about some parts of the new guidance, however, noting that her organization’s biggest concern is that some of it still relies on some cases that were decided under the Lemon test.
“To be fair, those specific cases have not been overturned yet,” Russell said. “But they rely on propositions from a case that has been overturned. So, I think it’s fair to say that some of those legal standards are likely no longer valid.”
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Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a progressive nonprofit that advocates for the dissociation of government and religion, applauded the new guidance in a statement.
First Liberty counsel Keisha Russell said her organization is concerned how some school districts might interpret the DOE guidance’s language. (iStock)
“As the administration reaffirms, public schools must be open and inclusive for students of every religion and none,” the organization’s president and CEO Rachel Laser said.
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