Pew Study Finds Public Expressions of Religion is a ‘Regular Part of the Public School Day’ for Many U.S. Teens

While religion in schools is a contentious subject in the courts, a new Pew study has found that for many of today’s teenagers, public expressions of religion are a normal and accepted part of their public school experience.

In a study released on October 3, Pew surveyed five types of religious expressions and activities: Wearing religious clothing or jewelry, praying before a sporting event, inviting other students to youth groups or services, praying before eating lunch, and reading religious scripture during the school day.

According to the study, 67 percent of teenagers said they see at least some sort of religious expression at public school on a regular basis. Overall, 53 percent of students often or sometimes see students wear clothing or jewelry with religious symbols, and 39 percent of students often or sometimes have seen peers pray before a school sports event, Pew said.

Showing slightly less participation, about 26 percent of students have seen peers praying before eating lunch, and eight percent have seen students reading religious scriptures outside of class, Pew said.

“While several previous surveys have examined the religious lives of teenagers,” Pew said in a press release, “this is the first large-scale, nationally representative survey asking teens a series of questions about their own practices and perceptions regarding religious expressions in public schools.”

The survey is “important to the broader study of religion in American society,” Pew said, “because of the friendships adolescents form in their classes and the way they experience religion in public spaces during some of their most formative years.”

Among religiously affiliated teenagers, evangelical Protestants were the most likely to pray at lunch or invite others to a church event. In total, 39 percent say they often or sometimes prayed before they ate, while 43 percent say they’d invited friends to a youth group activity or similar religious event. In comparison, just 11 percent of mainline Protestant teens say they pray before they eat at school and just 21 percent have invited friends to a church event.

Additionally, while most American teens (64%) say they rarely or never discuss religion with their friends, evangelical Protestants are much more likely than others to engage in this type of religious behavior.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett