President Trump is issuing updated rules on Thursday to ensure that public school students are allowed to engage in constitutionally protected prayer.
Taking the action on National Religious Freedom Day, Mr. Trump will hold an Oval Office event to announce updates to federal guidance on school prayer. White House officials said the update is required by law every two years, but hasn’t been done since 2003.
“President Trump is committed to making sure that people of faith, particularly children, are not subjected to illegal punishment or pressure for exercising their constitutionally protected rights,” said White House Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that public schools cannot sponsor an official prayer or coerce students into praying. But students generally can pray at any time, as long as it’s not disruptive.
Mr. Grogan cited the case in 2018 of students at Honey Grove Middle School in Texas who gathered in the school lunchroom to pray for a former classmate hurt in a car accident, only to be warned by their principal not to do it again.
When they prayed the next day, the principal moved them behind a curtain.
First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal organization, told the district that the principal’s action had violated the students’ rights, and the school reversed its policy.
Mr. Grogan said the president’s guidance will “remind school districts of the right of students” to exercise their rights.
In addition to the new guidance on school prayer, nine federal agencies on Thursday are issuing new proposed rules to ensure that the federal government does not discriminate against religious groups in the federal grant process.
“They will remove discriminatory regulatory burdens that the Obama administration placed on religious organizations that receive federal funding, thereby ensuring that the federal government’s social service programs are implemented in a manner consistent with religious liberty protections of federal law,” Mr. Grogan told reporters.
And the Office of Management and Budget is directing states that apply for federal funding to ensure that they don’t discriminate against religious organizations.
The Education Department will also propose a regulation requiring state education departments to report to Washington any complaints against school districts over the violation of religious rights.