Teaching Supreme Court Cases: Engel v. Vitale and Religion in Schools

This blog and the accompanying resource are part of a Shaped monthly series providing teachers for Grades 6–12 with downloadable U.S. history classroom resources and discussion topics.

Engel v. Vitale Lesson Plan

What role should religion play in the classroom? This is a topic that has led to debate throughout U.S. history. 

In the early 1950s, the state of New York recommended that public school students start their school day by reciting a prayer written by the state. In a case that eventually went to the Supreme Court, a group of parents sued, stating that this measure was unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

Ultimately, the court agreed with the parents in a controversial decision in Engel v. Vitale (1952). You can teach your students the background behind this case by downloading and distributing the graphic below.

Classroom resource and student questions available for download.


Learn more about HMH Social Studies, including the Judicial Inquiries program for middle and high school students to study 25 landmark Supreme Court cases that continue to impact their lives.

Read more blogs about teaching Supreme Court cases, including:

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