Engel v. Vitale Case Brief

Facts of the case

The New York State Board of Regents authorized a short, voluntary prayer for recitation at the start of each school day. A group of organizations joined forces in challenging the prayer, claiming that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The New York Court of Appeals rejected their arguments.


On a grant of certiorari, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the respondent’s decision to use its school system to facilitate recitation of the official prayer constituted the adoption of a practice entirely inconsistent with the Establishment Clause, U.S. Const. amend. I. The Court held that respondent’s use of the prayer in public school classrooms breached the constitutional wall of separation between church and state. According to the Court, the constitutional prohibition of laws establishing religion meant that government had no business drafting formal prayers for any segment of its population to repeat in a government-sponsored religious program. Thus, the Court found that respondent’s provision of the contested daily prayer was inconsistent with the Establishment Clause.

  • Advocates: William J. Butler For the Petitioner Bertram B. Daiker For the Respondents Porter R. Chandler For the Intervenors-Respondents
  • Petitioner: Steven I. Engel, et al.
  • Respondent: William J. Vitale, Jr., et al.
  • DECIDED BY:Warren Court
  • Location: Herricks School District
Citation: 370 US 421 (1962)
Argued: Apr 3, 1962
Decided: Jun 25, 1962
Engel v. Vitale Case Brief