Freedom of Religion and School Prayer - Essay Example

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A much-debated topic in the court system is freedom of religion and school prayer. The first amendment of the United Stated Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
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Freedom of Religion and School Prayer
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Download file to see previous pages The courts decisions in these cases reflect the two main points of the first amendment which are that the government cannot tell anyone to worship or how to worship and the government cannot show favor to a particular religion over another. Each public school Supreme Court cases can be placed into one of the following categories: religious teaching in public schools, practice of religion in public schools, student involvement in religious practices on school property.
The first court cases being discussed fall into the category of religious teaching in public schools. In the case of McCollum v. Board of Education, a school in Champaign, Illinois blocked a 45-minute time frame each week so that religious officials could visit the school and give religious instruction on school grounds. This was given the name of released time. Setting aside time during school hours for in school instruction of religion was ruled to be unconstitutional in this case. Released time is allowed off school grounds for the needs of religious students, but it is prohibited on school grounds. The court decided that religious instruction on school grounds shows support for that particular religion and therefore is unconstitutional....
The only involvement the school had was to collect attendance records to insure that the students participating showed up to their destinations. The Supreme Court found releasing students from school to participate in religious practices constitutional. Lastly, the case of Grand Rapids School District v. Ball also fell under the category of religious teaching in school. This case involved a co-teaching relationship between public teachers and teachers from private schools that engage in religious education (Parochial teachers). Parochial teachers would teach subjects that might involve moral questions. The court decided that this shared teaching between public and parochial teachers was unconstitutional. "Justice Brennan declared that public school teachers instructing in parochial schools might give the impression that the state endorsed the schools religion." (Gaustad 88). Brennan was also concerned that state paid teachers teaching at parochial schools might suggest that the religious schools could receive some form of government funding, which would definitely cross the line between the separation of church and state. Religious teaching on the grounds of the school in each case was found unconstitutional based on the first amendment and a violation of separation between church and state. Religious teaching was found constitutional as long as it was off school ground and voluntary for the students. In 1968, Epperson v. Arkansas an Arkansas law prohibited the teaching of evolution in the classroom or to use and textbook that teaches the theory of evolution. When this case was brought before the Supreme Court, the law was found unconstitutional under the first amendment because it prohibited "free exercise" of religion. The ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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