Jan. 16 (UPI) — President Donald Trump will welcome students from multiple U.S. religious-based schools on Thursday as he updates federal guidance regarding prayer in public schools.
Nine agencies in the Trump administration will update rules concerning the religious practice in public schools to empower students to pray there, if they want to. The change, officials said, will eliminate “discriminatory regulatory burdens” and threaten federal funding to schools if they interfere in children’s freedom of religion.
“[The guidance] will remind school districts of the rights of students, parents and teachers, and will empower students in others to confidently know and exercise their rights,” White House Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan said Thursday.
The education department will issue updated guidance, which includes protection for religious student groups in public institutions of higher education. The Office of Management and Budget will provide a memo requiring federal agencies to ensure compliance among recipients of federal funds.
“Whenever the president of the United States draws his megaphone upon a subject, people will pay attention,” Grogan said. “It’s important for all Americans, parents, teachers, administrators and citizens to understand that the First Amendment protects religious beliefs and protects people in expressing their spiritual life in the public square.”
Federal law addressing prayer in public schools has long been on the books, as the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed school-sponsored prayer in 1962. Students, however, have always been allowed to meet and pray on school grounds as long as they do it privately and freely, the law states.
The Trump administration said it’s issuing the updated guidance partly to clarify what is and is not allowed in public schools.