The Development Of The Freedom Of Religion In Public Schools

2178 words - 9 pages

The Development of the Freedom of Religion in Public Schools


President Jefferson had written that the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution was aimed to build "a wall of separation between Church and State." This wall still stands the only matter at hand here is that in several areas the Supreme Court has modified its profiles.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…." This clause has come a long way in how our government settles with cases concerning religion. The Establishment Clause generally means that government CANNOT authorize a church, pass laws that aid or favor one religion over another, pass laws that favor religious belief over non belief, and force a person to profess a belief. In all, government must stay neutral when it comes to religion and cannot be entangled with any religion.
"…..or prohibit the free exercise of thereof." This is the second religion clause. It is the Free Exercise Clause. This clause protects the rights of individuals to worship and believe as they wish. It also means that people cannot be compelled by government to act opposite to their religious beliefs, unless the belief violates a valid law.
Religion has brought about a lot of controversy since the day it was first incorporated into the Constitution. The position was clear that the government would be separate from religion, the unclear part was how to paraphrase the clauses. The House and the Senate both had different language presented. The debates in Congress conformed little assistance in how to interpret the religious clauses. The intent of Madison and Jefferson were fairly clear. What wasn't clear was if the others in Congress voted on the language and those in States who voted to ratify on the subject.
Before moving on to the development of these religious clauses, it would be best to have a look at the tests developed by which religion cases are settled by the court. While later cases rely on a series of rather well outlined tests, the language of earlier cases "may have contained too sweeping utterances on aspects of these clauses that seemed clear in relation to the particular cased but have limited meaning as general principles." It is also important to recall that the "purpose of the religion clauses was to state an objective, not to write a statue."
The concept of neutrality itself is a "coat of many colors," and three standards have emerged as tests of the Establishment Clause validity. The first two standards were part of the same composition. "The test may be stated as follows: what are the purpose and the primary effect of the enactment? If either is the advancement of inhibition of religion then the enactment exceeds the scope of legislative power as circumscribed by the Constitution. That is to say that to withstand the strictures of the Establishment Clause there must be secular legislative purpose and a primary effect that neither advances nor...

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