Public Prayer and the Separation of Church and State in Our Jewish Values

Our Jewish practice, as well as the practice of countless other minority religions in our nation, is protected by the separation of church and state, a separation that was trampled on by this week’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of a public high school football coach who engaged in public prayer while on duty and welcomed students to join him.

Public prayer led by public school officials establishes state religion, contrary to our Constitution’s First Amendment and in the case of a captive, vulnerable audience such as students on a sports team, coerces Americans in the minority. Whenever a vulnerable population is targeted, it signals to us a violation of the moral mandate from our tradition that teaches us to love the stranger, the widow, the orphan. We are deeply concerned about the overturning of long-standing precedent that protects the separation of church and state, about the religious fundamentalists advancing their aims, and for those students who are the first to be impacted.