Public Schools and Religion
Abington School District v. Schempp (1963) ended devotional exercises in
public schools because the First Amendment forbade the recognition of one
religion over others.
Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet (1994)
said a school district created for disabled children of a religious sect
violated the First Amendment.
Board of Education v. Minor (1872), a state supreme court decision,
preceded later First Amendment debates in the Supreme Court about religious
instruction in schools.
In Board of Education of the Westside Community Schools v. Mergens (1990)
the Court upheld the Equal Access Act, which barred religious
discrimination against student clubs.
Chamberlin v. Dade County Board of Public Instruction (1964) struck down
Bible readings and prayers in the public schools based on First Amendment
Cole v. Oroville Union High School District (9th Cir. 2000) used the
coercion test to deny students’ prayer at graduation because it could
violate the First Amendment.
Commonwealth v. Cooke (Mass. 1859) involved a student who refused to read a
King James Bible. The First Amendment which protects such rights was not
yet applied to the states.
In Donahoe v. Richards (1854), the Maine Supreme Court considered a
15-year-old Roman Catholic girl’s expulsion from public school for refusing
to read the King James Version of the Bible, preferring instead the favored
Catholic Douay version.
Engel v. Vitale (1962) ruled that school-sponsored prayer in public schools
violated the First Amendment even though participation in the prayer was
Good News Club v. Milford Central School decided that school districts
cannot prohibit First Amendment free speech of groups seeking access to the
district’s limited public forum.
Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education (1948) overturned an
arrangement whereby public schools provided religious training during
regular school hours.
Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches School District (1993) said that a law
banning a religious group from using a public school to show a religious
film violated the First Amendment.
Lee v. Weisman (1992) ruled that public schools violate the Establishment
Clause of the First Amendment when they lead students in public prayer at
Nurre v. Whitehead (2010) involved a student, who alleged her First
Amendment rights were violated when the band could not perform a religious
instrumental at graduation.
Pfeiffer v. Board of Education (1898) illustrates developments in the
states regarding religious exercises in public schools, before the First
Amendment was applied to the states.
In Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, the Court ruled that a
school policy of beginning football games with student-led prayer violated
the First Amendment.
Weiss v. City of Edgerton (Wisc. 1890) prohibited Bible readings in public
schools, relying on the state constitution before the First Amendment was
applied to the states.
Wallace v. Jaffree (1985) struck down a state law requiring a minute of
silence in public schools. The Court said the law had a religious purpose
and violated the First Amendment.
Widmar v. Vincent (1981) said that prohibiting religious use of the
University of Missouri’s buildings while allowing secular use violated the
Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) addressed the First Amendment right of free
exercise of religion in allowing parents to withdraw their children from
school for religious reasons.
Zorach v. Clauson (1952) said the released time policy of New York violated
neither the free exercise nor establishment clause of the First Amendment.