School Prayer and Discrimination: The Civil Rights of Religious Minorities and Dissenters

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Northeastern University Press, 1999 - Freedom of religion - 273 pages
In this provocative work, Frank S. Ravitch redirects the heated debate over prayer in the public schools. He asserts that current legal discourse, which centers this hotly contested issue around First Amendment rights, underestimates the ways in which school prayer fosters discrimination against religious minorities and dissenters. Arguing that traditional Constitutional doctrine is inadequate to address the harmful effects of public school religious exercises, Ravitch looks to civil rights principles and anti-discrimination laws for an alternative approach.

The author confronts the discrimination issue head-on, citing recent dramatic incidents of intimidation, harassment, and physical violence toward both religious minorities and those who oppose religious observances in the schools. He examines the legal, political, and social realities that create such occurrences, concluding that discrimination is likely to become more widespread, particularly as the religious right aggressively promotes the expansion of organized religious exercises in schools. Following a survey of current civil rights statutes and their limitations in dealing with this issue, Ravitch presents a draft of a statute that directly confronts this form of discrimination.

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From Riots to Harassment
Can Existing Law Help?

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