This month, more than 286,000 students are returning to public school. A question I am asked frequently during this season is, “What are my child’s religious rights in a public school?”

Here are 5 religious freedom rights that every student has in public schools.

#1 The Right to Pray

Every student has the right to pray, discuss their faith, read Scripture, distribute literature, and invite fellow students to join their particular religious group as long as it is voluntary, non- disruptive or coercive, and it occurs during non-instructional time.

#2 The Right to Express Religious Views

Students have the right to express their religious views during a class discussion or as part of a written assignment or art activity as long as it is relevant to the subject under consideration and meets the assignment requirements.

#3 The Right to Form Religious Clubs

Secondary school students have the right to form religious clubs if the school receives federal funds and allows other non-curriculum related clubs to meet during non-instructional time.

Religious clubs must be student-led—a non-student cannot lead the club. Regular attendance by an outside adult may be prohibited in order to avoid the appearance of the club being initiated or directed by a non-student.

Teachers may be present at religious club meetings as monitors, but they may not participate in club activities.

Student religious clubs may have access to school facilities and media on the same basis that other non-curriculum related clubs do.

#4 The Right to Wear Religious Attire

Students have the right to wear religious attire required by their religion such as headscarves or yarmulkes in school. Students may also display religious messages on clothing or jewelry to the same extent that other messages are permitted.

#5 The Right Not to be Required to Violate Their Religious Beliefs

Students have the right to not be required to violate their religious beliefs.  Students also may be able to be excused from lessons that are objectionable to the student or the student’s parents on religious or other conscientious grounds.

Radio Programs

Learn more about students’ rights in public schools. NFA Policy Director, Nate Grasz, joined me on the radio to discuss student religious freedom and public school students. Check out the programs here:

Students and Religious Liberty

Students’ Religious Liberty — Nate Grasz

Free to Speak

Free to Speak — Nate Grasz

Prayers for Public Schools

Pray for Public Schools — Karen Bowling

Praying for Your Student

Praying for your Student — Karen Bowling

Information and Resources

Interested in more details or have questions? Click here for more information and resources provided by Alliance Defending Freedom.

Karen Bowling

Karen Bowling

Executive Director
When Karen isn't fulfilling her duties as the Executive Director of NFA, leading a women's Bible study, or coordinating a prayer meeting, she's usually with her four grand children that keep her busy, laughing, and young at heart.