Street Law: A Course in Practical Law
Freedom of Religion
Cases and ResourcesThe Establishment Clause
The Free Exercise Clause
The Establishment Clause
Religious Liberty: An Overview
Read an overview of the freedom of religion. This article summarizes the significant events in American history that have led to the current understanding of freedom of religion.
Supreme Court Cases
Browse through a list of Supreme Court cases, by category, each handling a different element of freedom of religion. Click on the case name to read the full text of the decision.
The Establishment of Religion
Read this lengthy but clear overview of the establishment clause. What is the purpose of this clause of the Constitution?
Allegheny v. ACLU
Read about the Supreme Court case dealing with holiday displays on government property. From this site, read the full text of the decision, listen to the oral arguments, or link to other resources.
Lynch v. Donnelly
Take a closer look at the Supreme Court case discussing whether holiday displays are an "endorsement" of religion by the government. From this site, read the full text of the decision, listen to the oral arguments, or link to other resources.
Religion in Schools
The role of religion in schools encompasses a huge number of issues. Listen to programs or read articles on the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer in school or during extracurricular activities, evolution and creationism in the curriculum, and various other issues. There is also a collection of teacher materials available.
Debate over the Pledge of Allegiance
The Pledge of Allegiance with the words "under God", often recited in schools, is the center of a new debate over the Establishment Clause. This site presents both sides regarding the appropriate use of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.
Tips for Public Schools from President Clinton
Under President Clinton, the Secretary of Education issued tips for public schools to comply with establishment clause requirements. What can a public school do to ensure freedom of religion is properly maintained in school?
Lee v. Weisman
Read about the Supreme Court case described in The Case of the Rabbi's Invocation. From this page, read the full text of the opinion, listen to the oral arguments, or link to other resources.
Lemon v. Kurtzman
This 1971 Supreme Court case established a three-part test, known as the "Lemon test," to determine if a government law or action is constitutional under the establishment clause. Read a summary of the case or link to the oral arguments, the full text of the decision, or related resources.
Zelman v. Simmons-Harris
Read about the 2002 Supreme Court case permitting Ohio's school voucher program. From this site, you can link to the oral arguments, the full text of the decision, or related resources.
Government Aid to Parochial Schools: Cases
Read these cases in which the Supreme Court has allowed the government to provide some form of aid to parochial schools. Everson v. Board of Education, involved the use of public school buses by children attending private religious schools. In Board of Education v. Allen the Court allowed public schools to loan textbooks to parochial schools. Mitchell v. Helms involved the use of government funds to purchase computers for parochial schools.
Sante Fe Independent School District v. Doe
The Supreme Court confronted the issue of public school-sponsored prayer in this case. What did it decide? Read the full opinion or a summary of the case at this site.
Ten Commandments Cases
Both of these cases involve monuments of the Ten Commandments erected on government property. In McCreary County v. ACLU, the Court held that the monument violated the Establishment Clause. In VanOrden v. Perry the Court held that the monument did not violate the Establishment Clause. Why were these two cases decided differently?
School Prayer in Public Schools
The debate over prayer in public schools centers on the First Amendment. From this page, read the views opposing and supporting school prayer. Which position do you think most closely satisfies the First Amendment?
Back to TopThe Free Exercise Clause
Free Exercise of Religion
Visit the www.FindLaw.com site for an overview of the free exercise clause. The government cannot interfere with the practice of religion, but it can regulate religious practices for reasons other than interfering with religion. After you read this explanation, see if you can identify specific cases where this has been allowed.
Free Exercise of Religion and Famous Cases
After you read this short review of the free exercise clause, click on the significant related cases to learn more about how this constitutional right has been defined over the years.
Reynolds v. United States
In this 1878 case, a Mormon man challenged Utah's ban on polygamy, claiming it violated his first amendment right to free exercise of religion. Read the opinion to find out why the Court ruled against him.
Wisconsin v. Yoder
Read the 1971 Supreme Court case described in The Case of the Amish Children. From this site, link to the full text of the decision, listen to the oral arguments, or explore related resources.
Exceptions to the Free Exercise Clause
From a table of important cases defining when the free exercise clause will or will not bar a law restricting practice of religion, click on the "full text" phrase next to each case to read the decision. Begin with the 1878 polygamist case mentioned in your text.
Employment Division v. Smith
Read a summary of the Supreme Court case upholding the conviction of a Native American man who ingested the drug peyote as part of his religion. From this page, link to the full text of the decision, listen to the oral arguments, or browse through related resources.
American Indian Religious Freedom Act
Read the text of an amendment to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act that allows for the use of peyote in religious and ceremonial settings.
Rosenberger v. University of Virginia
Read about the 1995 Supreme Court case mandating that all student groups, both secular and non-secular, be treated the same for funding purposes. From this page, link to the full text of the decision, listen to the oral arguments, or browse through related resources.
Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board v. Pinette
Read about the 1995 Supreme Court case regarding the Ku Klux Klan and the placement of a cross in an Ohio public park. From this page, link to the full text of the decision, listen to the oral arguments, or explore related resources.
Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District
This case is similar to Question A in the You Be the Judge feature on page 481 of your text. The Supreme Court held that the establishment Clause did not prevent the school from providing the interpreter. Why did the Court rule this way?
Wallace v. Jaffree
This case is similar to Question B in the You Be the Judge feature on page 481 of your text. It involved a challenge to an Alabama statute allowing teachers to conduct prayer services in public school classrooms. The Court struck down the statute. Do you agree with this holding?
Board of Education v. Mergens
This case is similar to Question C in the You be the Judge feature on page 481 of your text. Read the full opinion or a summary of the case. What was the issue in this case? What did the Court decide?
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