Prayer in Public Schools
When the members of the first Congress passed the First Amendment (and sent it to the states for ratification), they voted to prohibit the "establishment" of religion. Since at that time many of the states, and most foreign countries, had an established church, it is assumed that these first congressional representatives intended to prevent a future Congress or president from declaring that only one church could exist in the United States. The question that has been left to later generations has been: What else is prohibited by this part of the First Amendment?
Over time it was generally accepted that the First Amendment prohibited federal, state, or local governments in the United States from raising tax money for a church, or for a particular group of churches. In many foreign countries, citizens still must declare each year what church they belong to, and tax money that they pay to the government is then forwarded to their religion. This would clearly be unconstitutional in the United States.
Eventually the Supreme Court said that the Establishment Clause requires government to be "neutral" with regard to religion. Government may not favor one religion over other religions, or favor religion over nonreligion. There must be a wall of separation between church and state. The challenge for the Court has been to determine just how high that wall must be.
In 1962 the U.S. Supreme Court had to face a very difficult question. Does the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prevent public schools from