Freedom of Religion - Lake Oswego High School

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
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 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
• 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
• 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
• 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 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
– 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)
• 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
• Critics attacked the law as a support of
• 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” 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
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
When aiding parochial schools, the
Court now applies a three-pronged
standard called The Lemon Test..
1.The purpose of the aid must be
clearly secular, not religious;
2.Its primary effect must neither
advance nor inhibit religion;
3.It must avoid an “excessive
entanglement of government
with religion”.
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
• 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
• 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
• Many public organizations sponsor
celebrations of the holiday season with
street decorations and programs in public
• 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”.