AP Gov 2007. Question 2. Engel vs. Vitale/1 st amendment (A). The portion of the First Amendment that the supreme court based their decision on was the phrase “Separation of Church and State.”
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Ultimately, the supreme court decided that school prayer is unconstitutional. (Public Schools) are considered to be part of the state, and obviously prayer is a part of the “church” so they felt that this fell under the 1st amendments clause “separation of church and state.”
The part of the first amendment that was looked at when making this decision was the fact that “Religion” refers to opinion not actions. “Religion lies between a man and his god.” This means that while the government cannot effect someone’s opinions of religion, they CAN effect the actions that those opinions may lead too.
The supreme court ultimately decided that they could pass a law against polygamy because this did not limit the religious beliefs or opinions of people, only actions, which thanks to the 1st amendment they are allowed to limit. "the legitimate powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions."