18. Con Law: Freedom of Religion
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The 1st amendment provides that congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Applies to the states throught the 14th amendment.
FREE EXERCISE CLAUSE:
NO PUNISHMENT OF BELIEFS
The free exercise clause prohibits punishing someone on the basis of their religious beliefs. The USSC has never found an interest that was so compelling that it would justify punishing a religious belief.
Religious belief does not require recognition of a supreme being and need not arise from a traditional, or even an organized, religion. The belief must occupy a place in the believer's ife parallel to that occupoed by orthodox religious beliefs. The USSC has never held an asserted religious to be not religious for 1st amendment purposes.
The gov't may not require any federal office holder or employee to take an oath based on a religious belief as a condition for receiving the federal office or job.
States may not exclude clerics from public office or other gov'tal positions, because that exclusion would impose a disability on these persons based upon the nature of their religious beliefs/status.
FREE EXERCISE CLAUSE:
NO PUNISHMENT OF RELIGIOUS CONDUCT SOLELY BECAUSE IT IS RELIGIOUS
A law that is designed to suppress actions only because the actions are religiously motivated is not a neutral law of general applicability. Such a law will be invalid unless it is necessary to promote a compelling interest.
The free exercise clause cannot be used to challenge a law of general applicability unless it can be shown that the law was motivated by a desire to interfere with religion.
The clause does not require exemptions from criminal laws or other regs for a person whose religious beliefs prevent him from conforming his behavior to the requirements of the law.
UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION CASES
If a person resigns from a job or refuses to accept a job because it conflicts with her religious beliefs, the state must pay her unemployment compensation if she is otherwise entitled.
RIGHT OF AMISH NOT TO EDUCATE CHILDREN
The USSC has required an exemption for the Amish from a neutral law that required school attendance until age 16, because a fundamantal tenet of Amish religion forbids secondary education. The Court found that the Amish are productive and law-abiding and ruled that the right to educate one's children and the free exercise clause outweighted the state's interest here.
Prohibits laws respecting the establishment of religion.
If a law or gov't program includes a preference for some religious sects over others, the law will be held invalid unless it is narrowly tailored to promote a compelling interest.
- Where there is no sect preference, the gov'tal program will be valid under the establishment clause (Lemon Test) if it:
- (1) has a secular purpose;
- (2) has a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and
- (3) does not produce excessive gov't entanglement with religion.
CASES UNCONNECTED TO FINANCIAL AID OR EDUCATION
A good rule of thumb is that a law favoring or burdening religion or a specific religious group in particular will be invalid, but a law favoring or burdening a larger segment of society that happens to include religious groups will be upheld.
If a display of the 10 commandments is shown to have a predominantly religious purpose, it violates the establishment clause, otherwise they may be displayed.
If the gov't maintains a holiday/xmastime display that does not appear to endorse religion, the display will survive review under the Lemon Test. If it includes religious and non-religious decorations, it will still pass. If it includes only a nativity scene, it will violate the establishment clause.
A state may not force employers to grant all employees an absolute right to refrain from working on their sabbath, because the primary effect of such a law is to advance religion. However, a state may require employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate employee religious practices.
CASES INVOLVING FINANCIAL BENEFITS TO CHURCH-RELATED INSTITUTIONS
A statute authorizing gov'tal aid to a religiously affiliated institution must be tested under the Lemon Test, but the USSC applies the test with greater strictness when the aid is going to a grade school or high school than it does when the aid is going to another type of institution.
A valid tax deduction for school program would have to allow deduction for (1) expenditures for public as well as private schools; and (2) some expenditures other than tuition so that public school students or their parents may benefit.
The court will uphold a gov't grant of aid to the secular activity of a religiously affiliated hospital or college as long as the gov't program requires that the aid be used only for nonreligious purposes, and the recipient so agrees in good faith.
GRADE/HIGH SCHOOLS: All cases examined by the USSC have been found to have secular purposes, but if significant aid is given the program may be deemed to have a primary effect that advances religion. If the gov't program has detailed administrative or legislative regs that are designed to ensure that the aid does not result in a primary effect of advancing religion, the law may be stricken as giving rise to an exccessive entanglement.
RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
No prayer, bible reading in school, whether voluntary or involuntary even if it is called meditation or silent prayer. No prayers at graduation ceremonies or at games.
Posting 10 commandments in classrooms serves a religious purpose and is invalid.
Teaching blble study in public school classrooms to students who request it is invalid.
Under the free speech clause, if a public school allows members of the public and private organizations to use school property when classes are not in session, it cannot deny a religious organization permission to use the property for meetings merely because religious topics will be discussed.
A gov't statute or reg that modifies a public school curriculum will violate the establishment clause if it fails the Lemon Test.
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