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Freedom of Religion. Religious Freedom. The Bill of Rights provides first for the protection of religious liberty – reflects European history where religion was often a cause of bloodshed

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Freedom of Religion

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religious freedom
Religious Freedom
  • The Bill of Rights provides first for the protection of religious liberty – reflects European history where religion was often a cause of bloodshed
  • Religion has always played a large and important role in American life with regular references to the divine among the founder’s speeches and national days of prayer being regularly called
  • Many early colonists, and many later immigrants, came here to escape persecution for their religious beliefs.
  • From the early days, the colonies were religiously diverse (but almost exclusively Judeo-Christian) which meant that any attempt to unify the nation under one faith would only lead to discord
freedom of religion3
Freedom of Religion

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

-United States Constitution, 1st amendment

Religious freedom thus comes from the establishment clause, which says the government will not chose an official religion it will support, and the free exercise clause, which says the government will not interfere with an individual’s religious practices

free exercise clause
Free Exercise Clause
  • The clause guarantees to each person the right to believe and practice their religion.
  • However, the Free Exercise Clause does not give anyone the right to violate criminal laws, offend public morals, or otherwise threaten the safety of the community so long as those laws weren’t created to target a specific faith.
  • So criminal laws that banned polygamy or the use of peyote are legal, as are building codes that limit the expansion of a church parking lot
  • But laws banning animal sacrifice are not
student religious groups
Student Religious Groups
  • The Equal Access Act of 1984 declares that any public high school that receives federal funds must allow student religious groups to meet in the school on the same terms that sets for other student organizations.
establishment clause
Establishment Clause
  • Two schools of thought:
  • Nonpreferentialism – The government can’t endorse a specific sect, but can support Judeo-Christian beliefs in general
  • Seperationism – Government must separate itself from religion in general
establishment clause7
Establishment Clause
  • The US Government has done much to encourage churches and religion in general.
    • Nearly all property of religious sects are free from federal, State, and local taxation.
    • Most public officials take an oath of office in the name of God.
    • Session of both houses of Congress, most State legislatures, and many city councils open with prayer.
    • The nation’s anthem and its coins and currency make a reference to God.
    • - Protected the placement of an eight-foot high Cross on public land to honor WWI soldiers
everson v board of education 1947
Everson v. Board of Education (1947)
  • New Jersey Bus Case
  • The Court upheld a State law that provided for the public, tax-supported busing of students attending any school in the State, including parochial schools.
  • Critics attacked the law as a support of religion.
  • The Court found the law to be a safety measure intended to benefit children.
  • Since this case, the largest number of the Court’s Establishment Clause cases have involved religion and education.
released time
Released Time
  • “Released Time” programs allow public schools to release students during the school hours to attend religious classes.
  • In McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), the Court struck down the released time program in Champaign, Illinois, because the program used public facilities for religious purposes.
  • In Zorach v. Clauson (1952), the Court upheld New York City’s released time program because the program required that the religious classes to held off school campus.
lemon v kurtzman
Lemon v Kurtzman
  • The test stems from Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) which asked if public school money could be used to subsidize the salaries of teachers at religious schools who teach secular topics
  • Answer: yes
  • WHY?
the lemon test
The Lemon Test
  • When aiding parochial schools, the Court now applies a three-pronged standard called The Lemon Test..
        • The purpose of the aid must be clearly secular, not religious;
        • Its primary effect must neither advance nor inhibit religion;
        • It must avoid an “excessive entanglement of government with religion”.
lemon applied
Lemon applied
  •     1985 -- court strikes down “moment of silence” laws as attempts to bring prayer into the schools (Wallace v Jaffree)
  •         1992 -- local clergy cannot be invited to deliver invocations and prayers at graduation ceremonies (Lee v Weisman) -- court considers the "coercive" element of the prayer
  •         2000 -- student-led prayer before football games not allowed (Santa Fe Independent School District v Doe)- 
prayers and the bible
Prayers and the Bible
  • The Court has held that public schools cannot sponsor religious exercises.
  • It has not held that individuals cannot pray when and as they choose in schools or in any other place. Nor has it held that students cannot study the Bible in a literary or historical context in schools.
  • In Epperson v. Arkansas (1968), the Court struck down a State law forbidding the teaching of evolution.
  • In Edwards v. Aguillard, it voided a 1981 Louisiana law that provided that whenever teachers taught the theory of evolution, they also had to offer instruction in “Creation Science”.
  • A federal disrict court banned the teaching of “Intelligent Design” in 2005
seasonal displays
Seasonal Displays
  • Many public organizations sponsor celebrations of the holiday season with street decorations and programs in public schools.
  • In Lynch v. Donnelly (1984), the Court held that the city in Rhode Island could include a Christian nativity scene in its holiday display because the display also featured non-religious objects such as candy canes and Santa’s sleigh and reindeer and was thus honoring the season and the faith
  • Daily sessions of both houses of Congress and most State legislatures begin with prayer. In congress, and in many States, a chaplain paid with public funds offers the opening prayer.
  • The court held that this practice, unlike prayers in public schools, was constitutional permissible because legislators, unlike schoolchildren, are not “susceptible to religious indoctrination or peer pressure”.