The Separation of Church and State

The Separation of Church and State

The Separation of Church and State

The Separation of Church and State


Students learn about the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and discover how just 16 words in the U.S. Constitution inaugurated a debate that continues to this day. The author objectively follows the debate in relation to prayer in public schools, government support for religious schools, the right to speak and raise money for religious causes, when religion conflicts with the law, and where this issue stands today.


No area of constitutional decision making has generated more controversy than the separation of church and state, which includes such issues as prayer in public schools and ritual peyote smoking. The task of maintaining the separation between church and state required by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has kept the Supreme Court busy. As one religious issue appears to leave center stage, another one rises to take its place. In no other area of constitutional debate do both sides bring such emotional commitment to their arguments.

Also, in no other area of constitutional decision making does the Court find itself between two potentially conflicting constitutional demands. The First Amendment demands that the right to freely exercise religion be protected from government interference and that government not establish religion.


While this volume is written for everyone, every effort has been made to make the discussion interesting and accessible to high school and college students. Issues and Supreme Court decisions have been chosen with an eye to what students might find interesting. Cases involving schools, both public and private, have been included.

This volume is intended to be useful both as a reference work and as a supplement to the standard textbook in social studies, history, religion, government, political science, and law courses. The Supreme Court decisions reprinted here were chosen because of their importance and the likelihood that they would stimulate discussion about the issues presented in this volume. Teachers might consider having students read only the actual Court decisions . . .

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