Main articles: Education in the United States and Religion in the United States
In the United States, public schools are prohibited from sponsoring religious observances such as daily prayer. Prayer itself is not forbidden while at school. Regarding the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the courts have consistently ruled that students' expressions of religious views through prayer or otherwise cannot be abridged unless they can be shown to cause substantial disruption in the school.
Controversy in United States
The issue has been controversial in the United States since the early 20th century. In the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, school days, in some parts of the country, customarily opened with an oral prayer or Bible reading. From time to time, religious minorities would object to the particular observance performed in the local schools. For instance, in the Edgerton Bible Case (Weiss v. District Board ), the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of Catholics who objected to the use of the King James Bible in Wisconsin public schools. This ruling was based on the state constitution and only applied in Wisconsin, but, like other challenges elsewhere in the country, provided a precedent for federal rulings to come later.
Those rulings were two landmark Supreme Court decisions, Engel v. Vitale  and Abington School District v. Schempp  (which included the well publicised case of Murray v. Curlett), establishing the current prohibition on state-sponsored prayer in schools. Following these two cases came the Court's decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman . This ruling established the so-called "Lemon test" which states that in order to be constitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment any practice sponsored within state run schools (or other public, state sponsored activities) must:
Have a secular purpose;
Must neither advance nor inhibit religion as its primary effect, and;
Must not result in an excessive entanglement between government and religion.
Attempts at reinstatement
Reinstatement of state-sponsored prayer has been attempted in different forms in a number of areas of the U.S. Some jurisdictions have introduced a "moment of silence" or "moment of reflection" when a student may, if he or she wishes to, offer a silent prayer.
Since the 1990s, controversy in the courts has tended to revolve around prayer at school-sponsored extracurricular activities. Some courts have allowed student prayers from the podium at graduation exercises, but, in Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe , the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling invalidating prayers conducted over the public address system prior to high school games at state school facilities before a school-gathered audience.
Proponents of school-sponsored prayer are largely, but not exclusively, Christians of various denominations; however, some major Christian denominations are opposed to the practice. Many of the key cases against government-sponsored school prayer have been filed by Christians in regions of the country where they are a minority, such as the Catholic and LDS (Mormon) families who filed in Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe in the overwhelmingly Southern Baptist Texas Gulf Coast.