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Columbia Education Center
Social Studies



TITLE:     Supreme Court Decisions on Freedom of Religion

AUTHOR:     Bruce D. Berst

GRADE LEVEL:    11

OVERVIEW:
The following l7 Supreme Court decisions are the basis for discussion on
lst Amendment Right, Freedom of Religion. Any and all can be discussed in
depth or simply touched upon.  The wide range of cases help students to
understand that this "freedom" has limits and bounds and is constantly
under attack.

Suggestion - Start study of Freedom of Religion with open ended questions
--

         l) What does freedom of religion mean?
         2) What could we not do in the name of religion?
         3) What is meant by separation of church and state?

Once this groundwork has been laid, simply introduce the case by name --
writing on board or overhead helps. I also include the year which helps
students understand what was happening in the world and in the US, which
may have influenced the court to rule as they did.  I do NOT tell the
students of outcome until they have exhausted arguments pro and con.
Then, prior to announcing verdict, we have a show of hands for and against.

Students will get quite involved with these -- even some heated
arguments have occurred.

     Good Luck!!


                 FREEDOM OF RELIGION


l942 - EVERSON VS BOARD OF EDUCATION    * Established clause

     School district transports all children to school, parochial kids too.
Taxpayers paying for bus and driver.  Church not charged for their kids to
ride. Their parents pay taxes anyway.

     (Supreme Court - can't let church kids ride violates separation.

l976 - SERBIAN EASTERN ORTHODOX DIOCESE VS. MILIVOJEVICH

     Milivojevich - Bishop - fired without cause, appealed case on grounds
fired unjustly.

      (Supreme Court - this is strictly a church matter).


l948 - McCOLLUM VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION

       School granted release time for kids to go across street, church not
big enough.  School gives an empty classroom (supplies and teacher are
those of the church), so release time for religious activity can take place
within the school.

       McCollum objects on grounds of separation and establishment.


l962 - ENGEL VS. VITALE

       New York School Board OK's and composes a prayer, instructed each
class to use it daily.  Prayer is nondenominational.  Is it OK?  (Supreme
Court says no).  If not mandatory, just a moment of silence? Swear in
President on Bible?   In God We Trust on coins?  God is dead.   National
Anthem?  Moment of silence?


l879 - REYNOLDS VS US.

       Mormon practice of polygamy based on religious practice.

       (Supreme Court says no.)


l963 - SCHOOL DISTRICT VS. SCHEMP

       Students selected passages to read aloud in a public school - no
interpretation.  Students could be excused if they so wished. All parts of
Bible read.  Schemp says this is wrong - Why?

       He is Jewish, he didn't excuse kids more damaging than being there.
Of course, doesn't accept New Testament.  Kids were not excused from
class.

       Legal - (Supreme Court says no.)  Not teaching or supporting religion.


l970 - WALZ VS. TAX COMMISSION

       New York school system giving text books to all schools, including
parochial schools.  Books paid for by tax money.   Violation of church and
state?

       (Supreme Court says no).  No teaching or promoting religion.


l943 - WEST VIRGINIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION VS BURNETTE

       School district compelled children to salute the flag. Jehovah Witness
objected.  Does mandatory regulations which go against religious grounds
violate First Amendment?

       (Supreme Court - illegal). What are our guidelines on pledge to flag?

l96l - BRAUNFIELD VS BROWN


      Jewish community - pass laws to close businesses on Sunday -
Sabbath.  Non-Jewish businessman objects. Legal?  Free Enterprise?

      (Supreme Court not legal)


l963 - SHERBERT VS VERNER

       7th Day Adventist fined for refusal to work on  Saturday - denied
unemployment compensation.

       (Supreme  - ruling stands, can't change system)


l934 - HAMILTON VS REGENTS OF U OF CALIFORNIA

       Methodist-Episcopal church - religious beliefs forbid military
training.   State law requires course in Military Science/Training Tactic.
Legal state law?

       (Supreme Court - No)


l972 - WISCONSIN VS YODER

       Amish refuse to send kids to school.  State law required mandatory
education to age 16. Amish argument - state law threatens religious
way of life.

       State's argument - prepares them for adult life Amish - don't need it.
State - what if they leave Amish community?

       (Supreme Court - state law overruled giving an exemption). We change
the system.  They said they would not in l963.


l944 - US VS BALLARD

       Ballard arrested for using US mail to obtain money under false
pretenses.

       Ballard - his own church

           I AM MOVEMENT

       He had been "selected" by divine messenger
       He was told to solicit money to carry out God's work.
       Men may believe what we can't prove.
       Do we need to prove his vision?
       Does it matter if incident is real or not?
       What if he is an actual Catholic priest?
       What is religion?  Should Court define it?
       What is danger here?
       May a single person establish his own religion?
       Does his church need guidelines such as services?

       (Supreme Court - legal)


l963 - US VS SEEGER

       Selective Service Act - exempts from combat any person who because
of religious beliefs consciously objects to participation in war of any
form - 3 men refused induction.

       Means - belief in Supreme Being - defined by Court.

       Seeger - When asked about belief in Supreme Being, said rather he had
a belief in good and bad and war was bad, he believed he should do only
good.

       Should he be exempted?

       Is he just trying to avoid the draft? Not exempted.


l97l   GILLETTE VS US

       Gillette convicted of willful failure to report for induction into
armed services.

       Stated - not opposed to war needed for national defense, or one
sponsored by UN for peace keeping.  Was drafted, went through Basic, when
given orders to VietNam, proceeded with conscientious objector status.
Cited numerous religious texts - a devout Catholic, said his duty to judge
what wars just, what are unjust.

       (Supreme Court - exemption not allowed)


l989 - NATIVE AMERICAN CHURCH VS OREGON

       Native American arrested for use of peyote.  Also arrested for snake
handling.  These are done in conjunction with religious ceremonies.

       People have died from either or both of these.  If we legalize it,
what about pot for your own church? Crack?

       Oregon State Law - illegal to possess peyote and/or use it.


LSD Church - League for Spiritual Development - Timothy Leary
illegal.  Prayers at commencement - California decision - illegal.


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