The results of a Pew Research Center survey focusing on religion among students have recently been published.
The survey involved more than 1,800 students aged 13 to 17 who were asked about their experiences in public schools in the United States. The focus of the survey was assessing what kind of religious activity the students and their peers engage in during a normal school day.
The most common forms of religious expression seen by students in school are clothing and jewelry. About half of U.S. teenagers in public school report frequently seeing other students wearing religious clothing (like a hijab) or jewelry like a necklace with a cross.
About 40 percent of students say they commonly see other students pray before a sporting event (because God really needs to focus on those games!), and about 16 percent said they see other students pray before lunch.
The study also questioned students about their teachers. Now, according to the 1962 Supreme Court ruling on Engel v. Vitale, it is a violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution for public school teachers to impose prayers on their students.
Some teachers clearly do not care about that ruling, however, since 8% of students responded that at some point in their schooling, a teacher has led the class in prayer. Unsurprisingly, it was more common in the South, where 12% of public school students reported it, versus the Northeast, where just 2% of students reported it.
About 53% of students know that teacher-led prayer is illegal and feel that it is wrong.
I really wish that number was higher. ...But I am glad that it is at least more than half.
Studies like this are important to understanding the changing religious demographics in the country and learning about how certain legislation affects students. With conservative Christian lawmakers constantly trying to shove religion down the throats of students in public schools, we should try to understand how exposure to certain religious ideas impacts people during their youth.