| Constitutional Law|
of the United States
In United States law, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, together with that Amendment's Free Exercise Clause, form the constitutional right of freedom of religion. The relevant constitutional text is: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...".
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents the government from making laws which respect an establishment of religion, prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.
The Free Exercise Clause accompanies the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause together read:
The Establishment Clause was based on a number of precedents, including the Constitutions of Clarendon, the Bill of Rights 1689, and the Pennsylvania and New Jersey colonial constitutions. An initial draft by John Dickinson was prepared in conjunction with his drafting the Articles of Confederation. In 1789, then-congressman James Madison prepared another draft which, following discussion and debate in the First Congress, would become part of the text of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The second half of the Establishment Clause includes the Free Exercise Clause, which allows individual citizens freedom from governmental interference in both private and public religious affairs.
The Constitutions of Clarendon were a set of legislative procedures passed by Henry II of England in 1164. The Constitutions were composed of 16 articles and represent an attempt to restrict ecclesiastical privileges and curb the power of the Church courts and the extent of papal authority in England. In the anarchic conditions of Henry II's predecessor, Stephen, the church had extended its jurisdiction by taking advantage of the weakness of royal authority. The Constitutions were claimed to restore the judicial customs observed during the reign of Henry I (1100–35) and in predecessor English law prior to the Catholicism-based Norman Conquest. Predecessor English law was being contemporaneously compiled in the Tractatus of Glanvil.
The Bill of Rights, also known as the English Bill of Rights, is an Act of the Parliament of England that sets out certain basic civil rights and clarifies who would be next to inherit the Crown. It received the Royal Assent on 16 December 1689 and is a restatement in statutory form of the Declaration of Right presented by the Convention Parliament to William III and Mary II in February 1689, inviting them to become joint sovereigns of England. The Bill of Rights lays down limits on the powers of the monarch and sets out the rights of Parliament, including the requirement for regular parliaments, free elections, and freedom of speech in Parliament. It sets out certain rights of individuals including the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and reestablished the right of Protestants to have arms for their defence within the rule of law. It also includes no right of taxation without Parliament’s agreement. Furthermore, the Bill of Rights described and condemned several misdeeds of James II of England.
John Dickinson, a Founding Father of the United States, was a solicitor and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware known as the "Penman of the Revolution" for his twelve Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, published individually in 1767 and 1768. As a member of the First Continental Congress, where he was a signee to the Continental Association, Dickinson drafted most of the 1774 Petition to the King, and then, as a member of the Second Continental Congress, wrote the 1775 Olive Branch Petition. When these two attempts to negotiate with King George III of Great Britain failed, Dickinson reworked Thomas Jefferson's language and wrote the final draft of the 1775 Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. When Congress then decided to seek independence from Great Britain, Dickinson served on the committee that wrote the Model Treaty, and then wrote the first draft of the 1776–1777 Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.
The Establishment Clause is a limitation placed upon the United States Congress preventing it from passing legislation forcing an establishment of religion. The second half of the Establishment Clause inherently prohibits the government from preventing the free exercise of religion. While the Establishment Clause does prohibit Congress from preferring or elevating one religion over another, it does not prohibit the government's entry into the religious domain to make accommodations for religious observances and practices in order to achieve the purposes of the Free Exercise Clause. Furthermore, it does not prevent the placement of religious symbols on government premises.
The Constitutions of Clarendon, a 12th-century English law, had prohibited criminal defendants' using religious laws (at that time, in medieval England, canon law of the Roman Catholic Church) to seek exemption from criminal prosecution.
The 1689 English Bill of Rights secured the rights of all "persons" to be free from establishment of Roman Catholic laws in the government of England.
The original Mason-Dixon line was the demarcation line between the Catholic colony of Maryland and the New Jersey and Pennsylvania colonies, which followed the 1689 Bill of Rights and their own colonial constitutions which provided similar protections against the establishment of Catholic laws in government.
A possible additional precursor of the Free Exercise Clause was the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The statute was drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777 and was introduced in the Virginia General Assembly in 1779. It did not pass the General Assembly until 1786. James Madison played an important role in its passage. The statute disestablished the Church of England in Virginia and guaranteed freedom of religion exercise to men of all religious faiths, including Catholics and Jews as well as members of all Protestant denominations.
Thomas Jefferson was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he had served as the second vice president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level.
The Virginia General Assembly is the legislative body of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World, established on July 30, 1619. The General Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, with 100 members, and an upper house, the Senate of Virginia, with 40 members. Combined together, the General Assembly consists of 140 elected representatives from an equal number of constituent districts across the commonwealth. The House of Delegates is presided over by the Speaker of the House, while the Senate is presided over by the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. The House and Senate each elect a clerk and sergeant-at-arms. The Senate of Virginia's clerk is known as the "Clerk of the Senate".
James Madison Jr. was an American statesman, lawyer, diplomat, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 to 1817. He is hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the United States Constitution and the United States Bill of Rights. He also co-wrote The Federalist Papers, co-founded the Democratic-Republican Party, and served as the fifth United States secretary of State from 1801 to 1809.
The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom granted these rights to men, whereas the First Amendment to the United States Constitution grants rights to persons, as does the 1689 Bill of Rights and the colonial constitutions in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The First Amendment is part of a group of 10 Amendments to the United States Constitution known as the Bill of Rights. The idea of adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution was proposed by George Mason five days before the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia in 1787. 9 His proposal was rejected by the other delegates. Alexander Hamilton later argued in The Federalist Papers that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary, claiming that since the Constitution granted limited powers to the federal government, it did not grant the new government the power to abuse the rights that would be secured by a Bill of Rights. :9–10 Nevertheless, the supporters of the Constitution (known as Federalists) in order to secure its ratification in Massachusetts, agreed to add a group of Amendments to the Constitution after its ratification that would serve as a Bill of Rights. Later, six more states likewise recommended the addition of a Bill of Rights, and the idea also gained the support of Jefferson and Madison. When the First Federal Congress met in 1789, Madison implemented the idea by introducing 17 Amendments to the Constitution. By December 1791, ten of his Amendments were ratified by the necessary three quarters of the states, and they became part of the US Constitution, thereafter becoming known as "the Bill of Rights".:
The Establishment Clause addressed the concerns of members of minority faiths who did not want the federal government to establish a state religion for the entire nation. The Baptists in Virginia, for example, had suffered discrimination prior to the disestablishment of the Anglican church in 1786. As Virginia prepared to hold its elections to the state ratifying convention in 1788, the Baptists were concerned that the Constitution had no safeguard against the creation of a new national church. In Orange County, Virginia, two federalist candidates, James Madison and James Gordon Jr., were running against two anti-federalists (opponents of the Constitution), Thomas Barbour and Charles Porter. Barbour requested to John Leland, an influential Baptist preacher and fervent lifelong proponent of religious liberty, that he write a letter to Barbour outlining his objections to the proposed Constitution.Leland stated in the letter that, among his other concerns, the Constitution had no Bill of Rights and no safeguards for religious liberty and freedom of the press. A number of historians have concluded on the basis of compelling circumstantial evidence that, just prior to the election in March 1788, Madison met with Leland and gained his support of ratification by addressing these concerns and providing him with the necessary reassurances. In any event, Leland cast his vote for Madison. Leland's support, according to Scarberry, was likely key to the landslide victory of Madison and Gordon.
Prior to the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1868, the Supreme Court generally held that the substantive protections of the Bill of Rights did not apply to state governments. Subsequently, under the Incorporation doctrine, the Bill of Rights has been broadly applied to limit state and local government as well. The process of incorporating the two Religion Clauses in the First Amendment was twofold. The first step was the Supreme Court's conclusion in 1940 that the Free Exercise Clause was made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.Conceptually, this raised few difficulties: the Due Process Clause protects those rights in the Bill of Rights "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty," and free exercise of religion is a quintessential individual right (and had been recognized as such at the state level from the beginning).
Incorporation of the Establishment Clause in 1947proved to be problematic in several ways and subject to critique. The controversy surrounding Establishment Clause incorporation primarily stems from the fact that one of the intentions of the Establishment Clause was to prevent Congress from interfering with state establishments of religion that existed at the time of the founding (at least six states had established religions at the founding) – a fact conceded by even those members of the Court who believe the Establishment Clause was made applicable to the states through incorporation. Critics have also argued that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is understood to incorporate only individual rights found in the Bill of Rights; the Establishment Clause, unlike the Free Exercise Clause (which critics readily concede protects individual rights), does not purport to protect individual rights.
The Supreme Court first considered the question of financial assistance to religious organizations in Bradfield v. Roberts (1899). The federal government had funded a hospital operated by a Roman Catholic institution. In that case, the Court ruled that the funding was to a secular organization –the hospital –and was therefore permissible.
In the twentieth century, the Supreme Court more closely scrutinized government activity involving religious institutions. In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the Supreme Court upheld a New Jersey statute funding student transportation to schools, whether parochial or not. Justice Hugo Black held,
The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and State."
The New Jersey law was upheld, for it applied "to all its citizens without regard to their religious belief." After Everson, lawsuits in several states sought to disentangle public monies from religious teaching, the leading case being the 1951 Dixon School Case out of New Mexico.
The Jefferson quotation cited in Black's opinion is from a letter Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, that there should be "a wall of separation between church and state." Critics of Black's reasoning (most notably, former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist) have argued that the majority of states did have "official" churches at the time of the First Amendment's adoption and that James Madison, not Jefferson, was the principal drafter. However, Madison himself often wrote of "perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters" (1822 letter to Livingston), which means the authority of the church (that which comes from the church) is decided by church authority, and that which is decided in civil government is decided by civil authorities; neither may decree law or policy in each other's realm. Another description reads: "line of separation between the rights of religion and the civil authority... entire abstinence of the government" (1832 letter Rev. Adams), and "practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States" (1811 letter to Baptist Churches).
In Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), the Supreme Court ruled that government may not "excessively entangle" with religion. The case involved two Pennsylvania laws: one permitting the state to "purchase" services in secular fields from religious schools, and the other permitting the state to pay a percentage of the salaries of private school teachers, including teachers in religious institutions. The Supreme Court found that the government was "excessively entangled" with religion, and invalidated the statutes in question. The excessive entanglement test, together with the secular purpose and primary effect tests thereafter became known as the Lemon test, which judges have often used to test the constitutionality of a statute on establishment clause grounds.
The Supreme Court decided Committee for Public Education & Religious Liberty v. Nyquist and Sloan v. Lemon in 1973. In both cases, states— New York and Pennsylvania —had enacted laws whereby public tax revenues would be paid to low-income parents so as to permit them to send students to private schools. It was held that in both cases, the state unconstitutionally provided aid to religious organizations. The ruling was partially reversed in Mueller v. Allen (1983). There, the Court upheld a Minnesota statute permitting the use of tax revenues to reimburse parents of students. The Court noted that the Minnesota statute granted such aid to parents of all students, whether they attended public or private schools.
While the Court has prevented states from directly funding parochial schools, it has not stopped them from aiding religious colleges and universities. In Tilton v. Richardson (1971), the Court permitted the use of public funds for the construction of facilities in religious institutions of higher learning. It was found that there was no "excessive entanglement" since the buildings were themselves not religious, unlike teachers in parochial schools, and because the aid came in the form of a one-time grant, rather than continuous assistance. One of the largest recent controversies over the amendment centered on school vouchers —government aid for students to attend private and predominantly religious schools. The Supreme Court, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002), upheld the constitutionality of private school vouchers, turning away an Establishment Clause challenge.
Further important decisions came in the 1960s, during the Warren Court era. One of the Court's most controversial decisions came in Engel v. Vitale in 1962. The case involved the mandatory daily recitation by public school officials of a prayer written by the New York Board of Regents, which read "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country". The Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional and struck it down, with Justice Black writing "it is no part of the official business of government to compose official prayers for any group of American people to recite as part of a religious program carried out by the Government." The reading of the Lord's Prayer or of the Bible in the classroom of a public school by the teacher was ruled unconstitutional in 1963. The ruling did not apply to parochial or private schools in general. The decision has been met with both criticism and praise. Many social conservatives are critical of the court's reasoning, including the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Conversely, the ACLU and other civil libertarian groups hailed the court's decision.
In Abington Township v. Schempp (1963), the case involving the mandatory reading of the Lord's Prayer in class, the Supreme Court introduced the "secular purpose" and "primary effect" tests, which were to be used to determine compatibility with the establishment clause. Essentially, the law in question must have a valid secular purpose, and its primary effect must not be to promote or inhibit a particular religion. Since the law requiring the recital of the Lord's Prayer violated these tests, it was struck down. The "excessive entanglement" test was added in Lemon v. Kurtzman (vide supra).
In Wallace v. Jaffree (1985), the Supreme Court struck down an Alabama law whereby students in public schools would observe daily a period of silence for the purpose of private prayer. The Court did not, however, find that the moment of silence was itself unconstitutional. Rather, it ruled that Alabama lawmakers had passed the statute solely to advance religion, thereby violating the secular purpose test.
The 1990s were marked by controversies surrounding religion's role in public affairs. In Lee v. Weisman (1992), the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the offering of prayers by religious officials before voluntarily attending ceremonies such as graduation. Thus, the Court established that the state could not conduct religious exercises at public occasions even if attendance was not strictly compulsory. In Lee the Court developed the coercion test. Under this test the government does not violate the establishment clause unless it (1) provides direct aid to religion in a way that would tend to establish a state church, or (2) coerces people to support or participate in religion against their will.In Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe (2000), the Court ruled that a vote of the student body could not authorize student-led prayer prior to school events.
In 2002, controversy centered on a ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2002), which struck down a California law providing for the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance (which includes the phrase "under God") in classrooms. Each House of Congress passed resolutions reaffirming their support for the pledge; the Senate vote was 99–0 and the House vote was 416–3. The Supreme Court heard arguments on the case, but did not rule on the merits, instead reversing the Ninth Circuit's decision on standing grounds.
The inclusion of religious symbols in public holiday displays came before the Supreme Court in Lynch v. Donnelly (1984), and again in Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU (1989). In the former case, the Court upheld the public display of a crèche, ruling that any benefit to religion was "indirect, remote, and incidental." In Allegheny County, however, the Court struck down a crèche display, which occupied a prominent position in the county courthouse and bore the words Gloria in Excelsis Deo , the words sung by the angels at the Nativity (Luke 2:14 in the Latin Vulgate translation). At the same time, the Allegheny County Court upheld the display of a nearby menorah, which appeared along with a Christmas tree and a sign saluting liberty, reasoning that "the combined display of the tree, the sign, and the menorah ... simply recognizes that both Christmas and Hanukkah are part of the same winter-holiday season, which has attained a secular status in our society." In Lynch v. Donnelly the Supreme Court also developed with the endorsement test a further test to determine the constitutionality under the Establishment Clause of certain government actions.
In 2001, Roy Moore, then Chief Justice of Alabama, installed a monument to the Ten Commandments in the state judicial building. In 2003, he was ordered in the case of Glassroth v. Moore by a federal judge to remove the monument, but he refused to comply, ultimately leading to his removal from office. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, allowing the lower court's decision to stand.
On March 2, 2005, the Supreme Court heard arguments for two cases involving religious displays, Van Orden v. Perry and McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky . These were the first cases directly dealing with display of the Ten Commandments the Court had heard since Stone v. Graham (1980). These cases were decided on June 27, 2005. In Van Orden, the Court upheld, by a 5–4 vote, the legality of a Ten Commandments display at the Texas State Capitol due to the monument's "secular purpose". In McCreary County, however, the Court ruled 5–4 that displays of the Ten Commandments in several Kentucky county courthouses were unconstitutional because they were not clearly integrated with a secular display, and thus were considered to have a religious purpose.
In the 1964 case McGowan v. Maryland , the Supreme Court held that blue laws which restricted the sale of goods on Sundays (and were originally intended to increase Church attendance) did not violate the Establishment Clause because they served a present secular purpose of providing a uniform day of rest for everyone.
Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987), was a United States Supreme Court case concerning the constitutionality of teaching creationism. The Court considered a Louisiana law requiring that where evolutionary science was taught in public schools, creation science must also be taught. The Court ruled that this law violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. It also held that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction."
Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), was a case argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. The court ruled in an 8–1 decision that Pennsylvania's Nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Education Act from 1968 was unconstitutional, violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The act allowed the Superintendent of Public Schools to reimburse private schools for the salaries of teachers who taught in these private schools, from public textbooks and with public instructional materials. The decision also upheld a decision of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, which had struck down the Rhode Island Salary Supplement Act providing state funds to supplement salaries at private elementary schools by 15 percent. As in Pennsylvania, most of these funds were spent on Catholic schools.
The separation of church and state is a philosophic and jurisprudential concept for defining political distance in the relationship between religious organizations and the nation state. Conceptually, the term refers to the creation of a secular state and to disestablishment, the changing of an existing, formal relationship between the church and the state.
Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985), was a United States Supreme Court case deciding on the issue of silent school prayer.
Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court decided 8–1 in favor of the respondent, Edward Schempp legal responsible of his son Ellery Schempp, and declared school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools in the United States to be unconstitutional. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court during this case was Earl Warren.
"Separation of church and state" is paraphrased from Thomas Jefferson and used by others in expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947), was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court which applied the Establishment Clause in the country's Bill of Rights to State law. Prior to this decision, the First Amendment's words, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" imposed limits only on the federal government, while many states continued to grant certain religious denominations legislative or effective privileges. This was the first Supreme Court case incorporating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as binding upon the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision in Everson marked a turning point in the interpretation and application of disestablishment law in the modern era.
McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420 (1961), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the court held that laws with religious origins are not unconstitutional if they have a secular purpose.
Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), was a landmark court case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that government funding for chaplains was constitutional because of the "unique history" of the United States. Three days before the ratification of the First Amendment in 1791, containing the Establishment clause, the federal legislature authorized hiring a chaplain for opening sessions with prayer.
Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940), is a decision by United States Supreme Court holding that the First Amendment's federal protection of religious free exercise incorporates via the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and so applies to state governments too.
Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment required the government to demonstrate both a compelling interest and that the law in question was narrowly tailored before it denied unemployment compensation to someone who was fired because her job requirements substantially conflicted with her religion.
Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 (1961), was a case decided by the United States Supreme Court. In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that a Pennsylvania law forbidding the sale of various retail products on Sunday was not an unconstitutional interference with religion as described in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally protected right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is also closely associated with separation of church and state, a concept advocated by Colonial founders such as Dr. John Clarke, Roger Williams, William Penn and later founding fathers such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.
In Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a Kentucky statute was unconstitutional and in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it lacked a nonreligious, legislative purpose. The statute required the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments on the wall of each public classroom in the state. While the copies of the Ten Commandments were purchased with private funding, the Court ruled that because they were being placed in public classrooms they were in violation of the First Amendment.
Texas Monthly v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1 (1989), was a case brought before the US Supreme Court in November 1988. The case was to test the legality of a Texas statute that exempted religious publications from paying state sales tax.
Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333 (1890), was a United States Supreme Court case affirming, by a 9-0 vote, that federal laws against polygamy did not conflict with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Mueller v. Allen, 463 U.S. 388 (1983), was a United States Supreme Court case examining the constitutionality of a state tax deduction granted to taxpaying parents for school-related expenses, including expenses incurred from private secular and religious schools. The plaintiffs claimed that a Minnesota statute, allowing tax deductions for both public and private school expenses, had the effect of subsidizing religious instruction since parents who paid tuition to religious schools received a larger deduction than parents of public school students, who incurred no tuition expenses.
School prayer in the United States if organized by the school is largely banned from public elementary, middle and high schools by a series of Supreme Court decisions since 1962. Students may pray privately, and join religious clubs in after-school hours. Public schools are those operated by government agencies, such as local school districts. They and are banned from conducting religious observances such as prayer. Private and parochial schools are not covered by these rulings, nor are colleges and universities. Elementary and secondary schools are covered because students are required to attend, and are considered more at risk from official pressure than our older students and adults. The Constitutional basis for this prohibition is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which requires that
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...