Education and Law
Education and Law
Court Rulings on Prayer and Bible Reading
Chapter 1 illuminates the educational and legal contexts in which yoga and meditation entered the U.S. cultural mainstream. Beginning in the seventeenth century, public schools taught Protestant Christianity. Since the mid-twentieth century, public schools have been tasked by courts with providing a secular education and by educational reformers with shaping moral character and ethical behavior. Yoga and meditation appeal to educators because they promise not only to enhance physical, mental, and emotional health but also to instill morality and ethics without promoting religion. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a series of landmark rulings, among them Engel v. Vitale (1962) and School of Abington Township v. Schempp (1963), that prohibited public schools from endorsing religious practices such as prayerandBible reading. The Court developed constitutional tests, the Lemon test, endorsement test, and coercion test, for identifying violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, based on principles of religious voluntarism, equality, and nondiscrimination. Through the federal cases Malnak v. Yogi (1979) and United States v. Meyers (1996), courts developed the Malnak-Meyers indicia of religion. In 2008, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) identified the imposition of yoga and meditation as reverse religious discrimination.
Keywords: Protestant Christianity, U.S. Supreme Court, prayer and Bible reading, Lemon test, endorsement test, coercion test, Establishment Clause, First Amendment, Malnak-Meyers indicia, reverse religious discrimination
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