The History of Religion in Schools

Milestones and Landmark Cases

Events

First Amendment Drafted

1789

The United States Congress agrees to the precise language of the religion clauses of the First Amendment.

Bill of Rights Ratified

1791

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech."

Blaine Amendment

1875

The term Blaine Amendment refers to either a failed federal constitutional amendment or actual constitutional provisions that exist in 38 of the 50 state constitutions in the United States both of which forbid direct government aid to educational institutions that have any religious affiliation. All were aimed to stop aid to parochial schools, especially those operated by the Catholic Church in immigration centers.[1]

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette

1943

Required participation in the flag salute is unconstitutional.

Zorach v. Clauson

1952

Released time for religious instruction off school premises is constitutional.

Engel v. Vitale

1962

A school sponsored nondenominational voluntary prayer violates the establishment clause.

Abington Township School District v. Schempp

1963

School sponsored Bible reading is not permissible.

Lemon v. Kurtzman

1971

A law or policy must:
• have a secular purpose
• have an effect of neither advancing nor inhibiting religion
• must not foster excessive entanglement of government with religion

The Equal Access Act

1984

Religious groups can have equal access to school facilities on the same basis as non religious groups provided there is a limited open forum policy.

Wallace v. Jaffree

1985

Schools cannot use a moment of silence to promote school prayer. A “neutral” moment of silence is okay.

Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe et al

2000

Students may not lead a school-authorized public prayer.