Legal Terms and Concepts Related to Religion
Accommodationism says the First Amendment promotes a beneficial
relationship between religion and government. It is a way to interpret the
establishment and free exercise clauses.
The idea that government can exercise “benevolent neutrality” toward
religion attempts to combine the ideas of neutrality and accommodationism
from First Amendment jurisprudence.
Direct government aid to religious schools has been found to violate the
First Amendment, but under the child benefit theory, government can aid the
The First Amendment establishment clause protects against government
religion, but there is a strong culture of civil religion, a mix between
nationalism and religion.
The coercion test helps the Supreme Court determine whether government
practices violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause. It is most
often used in public school cases.
Courts use the endorsement test to determine whether the government
impermissibly endorses or disapproves of religion in violation of the First
Though not explicitly stated in the First Amendment, the establishment
clause is often interpreted to mean that the Constitution requires the
separation of church and state.
The first 16 words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” protect the right of every person to practice religion in accordance with conscience and guard against creation of a sectarian state. But the precise meaning of these
The Supreme Court often uses the three-pronged Lemon test when it evaluates
whether a law or governmental activity violates the establishment clause of
the First Amendment.
Even though the word neutrality does not appear in the Lemon test, many
have interpreted the test’s commands to mean that government must be
neutral in matters of religion.
The nonpreferentialist test for interpreting and applying the establishment
clause of the First Amendment comes close to accommodation and “positive
The reindeer rule applies to an informal First Amendment principle that
arose from controversies over the public display of religious holiday
Released time programs allow schoolchildren to use school hours for
religious instruction. Programs in which students are coerced into
attending violate the First Amendment.
The origin of “wall of separation” came from Thomas Jefferson who used the
phrase to reflect his understanding of the First Amendment’s religion