Jaffree V. Wallace Supreme Court Case: Analysis

3419 words - 14 pages

In 1971 in Mobile County Alabama the School Board created a state statute that set aside time at the beginning of each day for silent ’meditation’ (statute 6-1-20), and in 1981 they added another statute 16-1-20.1 which set aside a minute for ‘silent prayer’ as well. In addition to these, in 1982 the Mobile County School Board enacted statute 16-1-20.2, which specified a prayer that teachers could lead ‘willing’ students in “From henceforth, any teacher or professor in any public educational institution within the State of Alabama, recognizing that the Lord God is one, at the beginning of any homeroom or any class, may pray, may lead willing students in prayer, or may lead the willing students in the following prayer to God… “ (Jaffree By and Through Jaffree v. James). Ishmael Jaffree was the father of three students, Jamael Aakki Jaffree, Makeba Green, and Chioke Saleem Jaffree, who attended a school in Mobile County Alabama. Jaffree complained that his children had been pressured into participating in religious activities by their teachers and their peers, and that he had requested that these activities stopped. When the school did nothing about Jaffree’s complaints he filed an official complaint with the Mobile County School Board through the United States District Courts. The original complaint never mentioned the three state statutes that involved school prayer. However, on June 4, 1982 Jaffree changed his complaint. He now wanted to challenge the constitutionality of statutes 16-1-20, 16-1-20.1 and 16-1-20.2, and motioned for a preliminary injunction. The argument against these state laws was that they were an infringement of the Establishment Clause within the First Amendment of the Constitution, which states that Congress may not create a national religion or favor and promote one religion over another. On August 2, 1982 the courts heard Jaffree’s motion for the preliminary injunction, and after a week they entered the injunction and stated “…appellees were likely to prevail on the merits because the enactment of §§ 16-1-20.1 and 16-1-20.2 did not reflect a clearly secular purpose”(“Wallace v. Jaffree - 472 U.S. 38 (1985)”). However, in November of that year, after a four-day trial, the District Court changed their outlook dissolved the injunction. They ruled that there was no part of statute 16-1-20 that was unconstitutional. Yet, the other two statutes were constitutional although they encouraged one religion with no clearly secular purpose and thus failed the Lemon Test. The District Court’s reasoning was since “…the enactment of Senate Bill 8 and § 16-1-20.1 is an effort on the part of the State of Alabama to encourage a religious activity. Even though these statutes are permissive in form, it is nevertheless state involvement respecting an establishment of religion” (Jaffree By and Through Jaffree v. James), the statute did not involve Congress creating a state religion, only the state of Alabama creating a religion. And because...

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