Engel v Vitale Case no. 468, 370 U.S. 421 (1962)

In New York, a state law required public schools to begin the day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a nondenominational prayer. This law also allowed students to not participate in the activity if they found it objectionable. However, a parent sued on behalf of his child.

Petitioners argued that opening the school day with the Regents' prayer violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Respondents made claims that the Regents' prayer did not violate any Amendment in the Constitution. Students' were given the options to recite the prayer, leave the room for the prayer or not recite the prayer, without any discipline actions.

Twenty-two states signed on to an amicas curiae (one that is not a party to a particular litigation but that is permitted by the court to advise it in respect to some matter of law that directly affects the case in question) brief urging affirmance of the New York Court of Appeals decision that upheld the constitutionality of the prayer.

The New York Supreme Court first dismissed the case. However, later on the court acknowledged the issue and sent it the National Supreme Court.

Margin of 6-1. Majority, voting that reciting the Regents' prayer was unconstitutional: Black, Warren, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, and Brennan. Opposing, voting that citing the prayer was constitutional: Stewart. 2 justices, Frankfurter and White, did not participate in the decision. The Supreme Court's opinion was delivered by Hugo L. Black and said, "that, by using its public school system to encourage recitation of the Regent's prayer, the State of New York has adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause."

"The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say --"

The Engel v Vitale case changed the Constitution. The First Amendment states that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." If the prayer was mandatory for all students to repeat at school, then yes the prayer would have been unconstitutional. However, the prayer was not mandatory; therefore, the Regents' prayer in schools was Constitutional.

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