v. United States (1879) - A free exercise case involving
polygamy, it was the first time Jefferson's "wall of separation
" metaphor was used. It also differentiated between the
constitutionally protected freedom of belief and freedom of action
which does not necessarily enjoy protection.
of the Holy Trinity v. United States (1892) - An immigration
case in which Justice Brewer referred to the United States as a
v. New York (1925) - A free speech case which, using the
Fourteenth Amendment, began the "incorporation" of the First
Amendment as a limitation on the states.
v. Board of Education (1930) - Allowed the purchase of
textbooks in secular subjects with public funds for the use of
students in parochial schools. Basis for the "child
benefit" theory established in Everson
v. Board of Education (1947).
v. Connecticut (1940) - Applied the Free Exercise Clause to
the states using the Fourteenth Amendment, continuing the
incorporation that began with Gitlow
v. New York (1925). This was the first of the Jehovah's
School District v. Gobitis (1940) - The Court ruled that a
public school could compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance
without violating the First Amendment. Three years later the
Court reversed itself in West
Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943). Both
of these cases involved the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) - Struck
down a compulsory flag salute law as a violation of freedom of speech.
v. Board of Education (1947) - The Court ruled that pubic
funding provided to parochial school students for transportation did
not violate the Establishment Clause because the aid benefited the
child not the school, but Justice Black, writing for the majority,
used the "wall of separation" metaphor and relied on
Jefferson and Madison to interpret the meaning of the clause as
providing a strict separation of church and state. This
case also applied the Establishment Clause to the states.
v. Board of Education (1948) - Struck down a state law that
permitted religious groups to use public school classrooms during
school hours for the purpose of religious instruction as a violation
of the Establishment Clause.
v. Clauson (1952) - While reiterating the principle of strict
separation, the Court found that a program allowing for "released
time" from school to attend off campus religious instruction
classes did not meet the test established in Everson
v. Board of Education (1947) and McCollum
v. Board of Education (1948). Justice Douglas, for the
majority, wrote, "We are a religious people whose institutions
presuppose a Supreme Being," and concluded that to disallow the
program in question would endorse a philosophy of hostility to
religion. The main difference between the programs in McCollum
v. Board of Education (1948) and Zorach
v. Clauson (1952) seems to have been the level of coercion
involved rather than the location of the instruction. Justices
Black, Jackson, and Frankfurter, who had written opinions in favor of
the result in McCollum
v. Board of Education (1948), dissented strongly.
v. Brown (1961) - The Court rejected a claim by Orthodox
Jewish businessmen that Sunday closing laws violated their free
v. Watkins (1961) - Struck down a state law that mandated a
declaration of a belief in God as a condition for public employment.
v. Vitale (1962) - The first of the school prayer cases, the
Court struck down daily recitation of a state authored prayer in
public schools as a violation of the Establishment Clause.
School District v. Schempp (1963) - Reasserting its holding in
the Court struck down a state law that required daily Bible
readings in public schools. Established the "secular
purpose" test for establishment.
v. Verner (1963) - The Court ordered a state to pay
unemployment benefits to a Seventh-Day Adventist even though she
refused to make herself available on Saturday as required by law.
This case established the doctrine used in subsequent cases that in
order to infringe upon free exercise, the state must show a compelling
interest to do so and protect that interest by the least intrusive
of Education v. Allen (1968) - The Court found that a state
program of lending approved textbooks free of charge to all students
including those in private and parochial schools was constitutional.
v. Arkansas (1968) - Struck down a state law that prohibited
the teaching of evolution in schools as a violation of the
v. Kurtzman (1971) - Struck down laws allowing states to pay
the salaries of teachers of secular subjects in parochial schools.
The Court also established the three part Lemon Test for establishment
from rulings in previous cases beginning with Abington
School District v. Schempp (1963). In order to pass the
test a statute must meet the three following conditions.
- It must have a secular legislative purpose.
- Its primary effect must neither advance nor inhibit religion.
- It must not foster an excessive government entanglement with
v. Yoder (1972) - Drawing from their ruling in Sherbert
v. Verner (1963), the Court found that a compulsory school
attendance law violated the free exercise rights of Amish parents who
believed high school attendance to be contrary to their religion.
for Public Education v. Nyquist (1973) - Struck down various
types of state aid to private and parochial schools including a
tuition reimbursement program for parents of children attending
nonpublic schools on the grounds that it violated the second prong of
the Lemon Test.
v. Pittenger (1975) - Expanding on Committee
for Public Education v. Nyquist (1973), the Court found that
several state programs giving aid to parochial schools failed the
Lemon Test and therefore violated the Establishment Clause.
Consistent with the "child benefit" theory put forth in Cochran
v. Board of Education (1930), Everson
v. Board of Education (1947), and Board
of Education v. Allen (1968), aid for the purchase of
textbooks was allowed.
v. Graham (1980) - Struck down a state law requiring the
posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments, purchased with private
contributions, on the wall of each public school classroom in the
State as having no secular legislative purpose, and therefore
violating the Establishment Clause.
v. Vincent (1981) - The Court ruled that public universities
which allowed political student-led groups to use campus buildings for
their meetings could not deny equal privileges to a Christian student
group on campus.
v. Chambers (1983) - The Court rejected a claim that a
chaplain paid with state funds and conducting a prayer at the
beginning of each session of the state legislature represented a
violation of the Establishment Clause on the grounds that the U.S.
Congress had been doing the same for over 200 years.
v. Allen (1983) - The Court ruled that a state program
allowing parents to deduct educational expenses, including tuition at
parochial schools, on their income taxes did not violate the
Establishment Clause. Their reasoning was based on the fact that
this was one of many deductions offered to taxpayers and that it was
available to parents of public and private school students.
v. Donnelly (1984) - Using American history as the basis for
its decision, the Court ruled that a Christmas display, including
among other things a nativity scene, erected by a city in a park
located in the heart of the shopping district and owned by a nonprofit
organization did not violate the Establishment Clause. Combined
v. Chambers (1983) and Mueller
v. Allen (1983), this seemed to represent a shift on the Court
to a more "accommodationist" view of the Establishment
Clause. Justice O'Connor advocated an endorsement test in a
Rapids v. Ball (1985) - The Court ruled that two programs
entitled Shared Time and Community Education gave aid to parochial
schools that, while having a secular purpose had the effect of
promoting religion and therefore violated the Establishment Clause.
v. Felton (1985) - Decided on the same day as Grand
Rapids v. Ball (1985), the Court found a similar aid program
to be unconstitutional.
v. Jaffree (1985) - Struck down a state law authorizing a one
minute period of silence in public schools for the purpose of
"meditation or voluntary prayer" as a violation of the
Establishment Clause. Justice O'Connor, in a concurring opinion,
held out the possibility that a differently worded moment of silence
law might pass muster. The minority saw the law as an example of
"benevolent neutrality", and Justice Rehnquist attacked the
doctrine of strict separation and the reliance on the "wall of
separation" metaphor as "bad history".
v. Aguillard (1987) - Struck down a state law that prohibited
the teaching of evolution in public schools unless accompanied by
instruction in the theory of "creation science" as lacking a
secular purpose and therefore a violation of the Establishment Clause.
v. Kendrick (1988) - Upheld the Adolescent
Family Life Act, which authorizes federal grants to public or
nonprofit private organizations or agencies for services and research
in the area of premarital adolescent sexual relations and pregnancy.
County v. ACLU (1989) - This case dealt with two recurring
holiday displays on public property. The Court found that while
a Menorah displayed next to a Christmas tree outside of a county
office building did not violate the Establishment Clause, a nativity
scene displayed by itself in the county courthouse one block away did.
This can be seen as a refusal to extend the decision reached in Lynch
v. Donnelly (1984).
Side Community School v. Mergens (1990) - The Court found that
Access Act, 1984 did not violate the Establishment Clause,
allowing the formation of religiously based clubs in public schools.
v. Smith (1990) - The Court ruled that the denial of
unemployment benefits to members of the Native American Church who
were fired because of their sacramental use of peyote did not violate
the Free Exercise Clause. This case is most noteworthy because,
in his majority opinion, Justice Scalia rejected the "compelling
governmental interest" test as a basis for decisions in free
exercise cases, which led to the passage of the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
v. Weisman (1992) - The Court found an invitation by a public
school to a local clergyman to have an invocation and benediction
during the graduation ceremonies to be a violation of the
v. Catalina (1993) - The Court ruled that a public school
district supplying a sign language interpreter for a deaf child at a
Roman Catholic high school did not violate the Establishment Clause.
of Babalu v. Hialeah (1993) - Struck down a law, passed in
reaction to the practices of the Santeria religion, that outlawed
animal sacrifice as a violation of the Free Exercise Clause.
Lambs Chapel v. Moriches Union Free School (1994) -
Square Review v. Pinnette (1995) - The Court found that an
unattended cross placed in a square used as a public forum and for
public activities by the Ku Klux Klan during the Christmas season did
not violate the Establishment Clause.
A. Newdow v. US Congress, et al. (2002) - The Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 1954 act of Congress inserting
the words "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance is