Engel v. Vitale

Fact Box

Engel v. Vitale
Petitioner: Engel
Respondent: Vitale
Decided By: Warren Court (1962)

Decision: 6 votes for Engel, 1 vote against
Facts of the Case 

The Board of Regents for the State of New York authorized a short, voluntary prayer for recitation at the start of each school day. This was an attempt to defuse the politically potent issue by taking it out of the hands of local communities. The blandest of invocations read as follows: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and beg Thy blessings upon us, our teachers, and our country."


Does the reading of a nondenominational prayer at the start of the school day violate the "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment?

Decision: 6 votes for Engel, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Establishment of Religion

Yes. Neither the prayer's nondenominational character nor its voluntary character saves it from unconstitutionality. By providing the prayer, New York officially approved religion. This was the first in a series of cases in which the Court used the establishment clause to eliminate religious activities of all sorts, which had traditionally been a part of public ceremonies. Despite the passage of time, the decision is still unpopular with a majority of Americans.


  • http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1961/1961_468/#sort=ideology