RS 361E/CAS 4201 RU 01 Christianity, Politics and Public Policy

RS 361E/CAS 4201 RU 01
Christianity, Politics and Public Policy
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
In 2001, the State of Virginia mandated that public schools start each day with a moment
of silence, during which time students can “mediate, pray or engage in other silent
activity.” But 16year old Jordan Kupersmith of Potomac Falls High School objected to
what he believed was an effort to bring religion into the public schools. As the 2001
school term began, Kupersmith walked out of class to protest the minute of silence policy
as it was announced over the school’s public address system. Aided by the ACLU,
Kupersmith challenged the law, arguing that it violated the Constitution’s separation of
church and state.
Class will be split into three courts. Some groups might find the Virginia mandate
unconstitutional. Others might compile arguments to allow the mandate to stand.
You may want to keep the following in mind as you prepare your ruling and supporting
1. Is the state requirement coercive?
2. Should the state requirement be considered from a free exercise or establishment
perspective? Why?
3. How is this different from the Alabama (Wallace v Jaffree) statute? Is it different?
4. Would it or should it survive the Lemon Test?
5. Could this be resolved with a Constitutional amendment?
6. What should be the public policy on school prayer? What will be required for this
to occur?
7. Is a moment of silence being sensitive to all religious faiths? Is there any nonreligious group that would or could be offended by this practice?
8. How would or allowing a moment of silence be providing a ‘slippery slope’ that
will undermine the intention of the framers?
9. How would an accommodationist interpret this scenario? A separationist?
(cf. Hammond)