In response to a reader's concerns for their grandchildren who will never know what it's like to start each school day off with a prayer, the Rev. Billy Graham says while he doesn't believe prayer will ever return to public schools, there are other ways students can talk to God throughout their day.
"Do you think we'll ever get back to the days when they allowed prayer in our public schools?" the grandparent asked, emphasizing that they found the absence of prayer and other religious practices within schools to be troubling.
"When I was young, we used to pray and read the Bible in school every day, but my grandchildren aren't able to experience this, and it upsets me a great deal."
Graham responded by noting that the school prayer debate "is a complicated political and legal issue," but offered a few points for people to consider.
"First, no one can banish God from our hearts. If we truly know Christ, we know we can turn to Him in silent prayer no matter where we are," wrote Graham.
"Second, never forget the important place of our families in helping our children come to believe in God and rely on Him. No school or other institution can take the place of a family where God is honored and served."
Graham added that while he doubted that prayer and Bible reading was going to return to public schools, people still "need to remember to pray for our country."
"The issue you mention here is only one sign of our nation's increasing drift from God. Pray for our nation and its leaders every day. The Bible says, 'Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,' (Psalm 33:12)," concluded Graham.
In 1962, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Engel v. Vitale that public schools could not officially sanction prayers, even if the prayer was voluntary in nature.
"The majority stated that the provision allowing students to absent themselves from this activity did not make the law constitutional because the purpose of the First Amendment was to prevent government interference with religion," noted the United States Courts.
"The majority noted that religion is very important to a vast majority of the American people. Since Americans adhere to a wide variety of beliefs, it is not appropriate for the government to endorse any particular belief system."
While known to be an unpopular decision, Engel v. Vitale did have some notable supporters, including civil rights icon the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In an interview published by Playboy in 1965, King explained that regarding the controversial decision, "I endorse it. I think it was correct."
"Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in God. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken, and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right," said King.
"I am strongly opposed to the efforts that have been made to nullify the decision. They have been motivated, I think, by little more than the wish to embarrass the Supreme Court."