SAT Subject US History Practice Question 687: Answer and Explanation
38. Which of the following was the reason the Supreme Court decided that prayers could not be required in public schools?
A. Church membership had declined.
B. Atheism had spread throughout American society.
C. Prayer in public schools violated the 1st Amendment.
D. Prayer in public schools would lead to a renewal of religious tests for public office.
E. Americans no longer considered prayer to be important in their lives.
Correct Answer: C
The 1st Amendment prohibits Congress from establishing an official religion (the so-called "establishment clause"). In Engel v. Vitale, the Supreme Court ruled that "it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers…." The establishment clause is the basis for a separation of church and state. The other choices, whether valid or not, would not come before a court of law for resolution.