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Engel vs. Vitale
The Board of Regents for the State of New York authorized a short, voluntary prayer for recitation at the start of each school day.
This was an attempt to defuse the politically potent issue by taking it out of the hands of local communities.
The blandest of invocations read as follows: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and beg Thy blessings upon us, our teachers, and our country."
Neither the prayer's nondenominational character nor its voluntary character saves it from unconstitutionality.
By providing the prayer, New York officially approved religion.
- This was the first in a series of cases in which the Court used the establishment clause to eliminate religious activities of all sorts, which had traditionally been a part
- of public ceremonies.
Despite the passage of time, the decision is still unpopular with a majority of Americans.
Abington School District vs. Schemp
The Abington case concerns Bible-reading in Pennsylvania public schools.
At the beginning of the school day, students who attended public schools in the state of Pennsylvania were required to read at least ten verses from the Bible. After completing these readings, school authorities required all Abington Township students to recite the Lord's Prayer.
Students could be excluded from these exercises by a written note from their parents to the school.
Murray and his mother, professed atheists -- challenged the prayer requirement.
- The Court found such a violation.
- The required activities encroached on both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment since the readings and recitations were essentially religious ceremonies and were "intended by the State to be so."
- Furthermore, argued Justice Clark, the ability of a parent to excuse a child from these ceremonies by a written note was irrelevant since it did not prevent the school's actions from violating the Establishment Clause.
Lemon vs. Kurtzman
This case was heard concurrently with two others, Earley v. DiCenso (1971) and Robinson v. DiCenso (1971).
The cases involved controversies over laws in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
In Pennsylvania, a statute provided financial support for teacher salaries, textbooks, and instructional materials for secular subjects to non-public schools.
The Rhode Island statute provided direct supplemental salary payments to teachers in non-public elementary schools.
Each statute made aid available to "church-related educational institutions."
Chief Justice Burger articulated a three-part test for laws dealing with religious establishment.
To be constitutional, a statute must have "a secular legislative purpose," it must have principal effects which neither advance nor inhibit religion, and it must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion."
The Court found that the subsidization of parochial schools furthered a process of religious inculcation, and that the "continuing state surveillance" necessary to enforce the specific provisions of the laws would inevitably entangle the state in religious affairs.
The Court also noted the presence of an unhealthy "divisive political potential" concerning legislation which appropriates support to religious schools.
Stone vs. Graham
Sydell Stone and a number of other parents challenged a Kentucky state law that required the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments in each public school classroom.
They filed a claim against James Graham, the superintendent of public schools in Kentucky.
In a 5-to-4 per curiam decision, the Court ruled that the Kentucky law violated the first part of the test established in Lemon v. Kurtzman, and thus violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
The Court found that the requirement that the Ten Commandments be posted "had no secular legislative purpose" and was "plainly religious in nature."
The Court noted that the Commandments did not confine themselves to arguably secular matters (such as murder, stealing, etc.), but rather concerned matters such as the worship of God and the observance of the Sabbath Day.
Santa Fe vs. Doe
Prior to 1995, a student elected as Santa Fe High School's student council chaplain delivered a prayer, described as overtly Christian, over the public address system before each home varsity football game.
One Mormon and one Catholic family filed suit challenging this practice and others under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
While the suit was pending, the District adopted a new policy, which permitted, but did not require, student-initiated and student- led prayer at all the home games and which authorized two student elections, the first to determine whether "invocations" should be delivered at games, and the second to select the spokesperson to deliver them.
After the students authorized such prayers and selected a spokesperson, the District Court entered an order modifying the policy to permit only nonsectarian, nonproselytizing prayer.
The Court of Appeals held that, even as modified by the District Court, the football prayer policy was invalid.
The District petitioned for a writ of certiorari, claiming its policy did not violate the Establishment Clause because the football game messages were private student speech, not public speech.
Salazar vs. Buono
In 1934, the Veterans of Foreign Wars built a wooden cross on top of Sunrise Rock in the Mojave National Preserve (Preserve) as a memorial to those who died in World War I.
Frank Buono, a former Preserve employee, filed suit in a California federal district court seeking to prevent the permanent display of the cross.
The genesis of his suit occurred in 1999 when a request to build a Buddhist shrine in the Preserve, near the cross, was denied.
He argued that the cross' display on federal property violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The district court agreed and the cross was covered.
While the case was pending, Congress designated Sunrise Rock a national memorial and barred its dismantling with the use of federal funds.
One year later, by land swap, Congress made Sunrise Rock private property in exchange for another parcel of land.
Mr. Buono moved to not only enforce the previous court order preventing the display of the cross, but also to prohibit the land swap.
The district court granted both motions. The Secretary of the Interior appealed, arguing that the district court abused its discretion.
the Court held that Mr. Buono has standing to maintain this action.
Justice Kennedy reasoned that when a party obtains a judgment in its favor, like Mr. Buono, it acquires a "judicially cognizable" interest in ensuring compliance with that judgment.
The plurality also held that the district court erred in preventing the government from implementing the land-transfer statute in order to protect Mr. Buono's rights.
The district court was correct in preventing the enforcement of Congress' land-transfer statute because the statute was designed to leave the cross in place thus violating the Establishment Clause
Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez
- The Christian Legal Society Chapter of the
- University of California, Hastings College of Law (CLS) filed suit against the university in a California federal district for violating its First Amendment rights.
The Hastings College of Law failed to recognize the CLS as an official student organization because state law requires all registered student organizations to allow "any student to participate, become a member, or seek leadership positions, regardless of their status or beliefs."
In contrast, CLS requires its members to attest in writing that "I believe in: The Bible as the inspired word of God; The Deity of our Lord, Jesus Christ, God's son; The vicarious death of Jesus Christ for our sins; His bodily resurrection and His personal return; The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration; [and] Jesus Christ, God's son, is Lord of my life."
The district court dismissed the case.
On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that the school's conditions on recognizing student groups were viewpoint neutral and reasonable.
Therefore, the school's conditions did not violate the CLS's First Amendment rights.
Equal Access Law of 1984
The Equal Access Act is a federal law enacted on August 11, 1984 to prevent unequal treatment or discrimination among non-curricular student clubs in public secondary schools.
"It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings."
Essentially, if a public secondary school allows for the existence of one or more extra-curricular or non-curricular student groups on school property during non-instructional time (a “limited open forum”), then it must grant equal opportunity to all non-curricular student groups.
A school will not lose federal funding if it fails to comply with the Equal Access Act; however, an aggrieved party or parties may bring suit in a U.S. district court to compel a school to observe the law. The school may then be liable for damages and the attorney’s fees of the opposing party.
In many cases, students have been instrumental in bringing violations of the Equal Access Act to court.
Board of Education vs. Mergens
The school administration at Westside High School denied permission to a group of students to form a Christian club with the same privileges and meeting terms as other Westside after-school student clubs.
In addition to citing the Establishment Clause, Westside refused the club's formation because it lacked a faculty sponsor.
When the school board upheld the administration's denial, Mergens and several other students sued.
The students alleged that Westside's refusal violated the Equal Access Act, which requires that schools in receipt of federal funds provide "equal access" to student groups seeking to express "religious, political, philosophical, or other content" messages.
On appeal from an adverse District Court ruling, the Court of Appeals found in favor of the students. The Supreme Court granted Westside certiorari.
In distinguishing between "curriculum" and "noncurriculum student groups," the Court held that since Westside permitted other noncurricular clubs, it was prohibited under the Equal Access Act from denying equal access to any after- school club based on the content of its speech.
The proposed Christian club would be a non-curriculum group since no other course required students to become its members, its subject matter would not actually be taught in classes, it did not concern the school's cumulative body of courses, and its members would not receive academic credit for their participation.
The Court added that the Equal Access Act was constitutional because it served an overriding secular purpose by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of philosophical, political, or other types of speech.
As such, the Act protected the Christian club's formation even if its members engaged in religious discussions.
City of Hialeah vs. Church of Babalou Aye
The Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye practiced the Afro-Caribbean-based religion of Santeria.
Santeria used animal sacrifice as a form of worship in which an animal's carotid arteries would be cut and, except during healing and death rights, the animal would be eaten.
Shortly after the announcement of the establishment of a Santeria church in Hialeah, Florida, the city council adopted several ordinances addressing religious sacrifice.
The ordinances prohibited possession of animals for sacrifice or slaughter, with specific exemptions for state-licensed activities.
The Court held that the ordinances were neither neutral nor generally applicable.
The ordinances had to be justified by a compelling governmental interest and they had to be narrowly tailored to that interest.
The core failure of the ordinances were that they applied exclusively to the church.
The ordinances singled out the activities of the Santeria faith and suppressed more religious conduct than was necessary to achieve their stated ends.
Only conduct tied to religious belief was burdened. The ordinances targeted religious behavior, therefore they failed to survive the rigors of strict strutiny.
Employment Division vs. Smith
Two Native Americans who worked as counselors for a private drug rehabilitation organization, ingested peyote -- a powerful hallucinogen -- as part of their religious ceremonies as members of the Native American Church.
As a result of this conduct, the rehabilitation organization fired the counselors.
The counselors filed a claim for unemployment compensation.
The government denied them benefits because the reason for their dismissal was considered work-related "misconduct."
The counselors lost their battle in state court. But the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Oregon Supreme Court's judgment against the disgruntled employees, and returned the case to the Oregon courts to determine whether or not sacramental use of illegal drugs violated Oregon's state drug laws (485 U.S. 660 (1988)).
On remand, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that while Oregon drug law prohibited the consumption of illegal drugs for sacramental religious uses, this prohibition violated the free exercise clause.
The case returned to the U.S. Supreme Court in this new posture.
The Court has never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that government is free to regulate.
Allowing exceptions to every state law or regulation affecting religion "would open the prospect of constitutionally required exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind."
Do students have the same rights as adults?
No! Schools have the right to act en loco parentis or in place of parents. And can choose things not fit for school (w/o breaking the amendments)
RAV vs. St. Paul
Several teenagers allegedly burned a crudely fashioned cross on a black family's lawn.
The police charged one of the teens under a local bias- motivated criminal ordinance which prohibits the display of a symbol which "arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender."
The trial court dismissed this charge. The state supreme court reversed. R.A.V. appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a 9-to-0 vote, the justices held the ordinance invalid on its face because "it prohibits otherwise permitted speech solely on the basis of the subjects the speech addresses."
The First Amendment prevents government from punishing speech and expressive conduct because it disapproves of the ideas expressed.
Snyder vs. Phelps
The family of deceased Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder filed a lawsuit against members of the Westboro Baptist Church who picketed at his funeral.
The family accused the church and its founders of defamation, invasion of privacy and the intentional infliction of emotional distress for displaying signs that said, "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "Fag troops" at Snyder's funeral.
U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett awarded the family $5 million in damages, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the judgment violated the First Amendment's protections on religious expression.
The church members' speech is protected, "notwithstanding the distasteful and repugnant nature of the words."
Morse vs. Frederick
At a school-supervised event, Joseph Frederick held up a banner with the message "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," a slang reference to marijuana smoking.
Principal Deborah Morse took away the banner and suspended Frederick for ten days. She justified her actions by citing the school's policy against the display of material that promotes the use of illegal drugs.
Frederick sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the federal civil rights statute, alleging a violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
The District Court found no constitutional violation and ruled in favor of Morse.
The court held that even if there were a violation, the principal had qualified immunity from lawsuit.
Because Frederick was punished for his message rather than for any disturbance, the Circuit Court ruled, the punishment was unconstitutional.
Furthermore, the principal had no qualified immunity, because any reasonable principal would have known that Morse's actions were unlawful.
The Court reversed the Ninth Circuit by a 5-4 vote, ruling that school officials can prohibit students from displaying messages that promote illegal drug use.
Chief Justice John Roberts's majority opinion held that although students do have some right to political speech even while in school, this right does not extend to pro-drug messages that may undermine the school's important mission to discourage drug use.
The majority held that Frederick's message, though "cryptic," was reasonably interpreted as promoting marijuana use - equivalent to "[Take] bong hits" or "bong hits [are a good thing]."
In concurring opinions, Justice Thomas expressed his view that the right to free speech does not apply to students and his wish to see Tinker overturned altogether, while Justice Alito stressed that the decision applied only to pro-drug messages and not to broader political speech.
What is the Establishment Clause?
The government cannot establish a national religion.
What is the Free Exercise Clause?
The government cannot prevent someone from practicing the religion you choose.
(Unless religious act is against the Federal Law)