Timeline of Religion in Public Schools

Events

First Amendment Drafted

Approx. 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

Forbid direct government aid to educational institutions that have any religious affiliation

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette

1943

Required participation in the flag salute is unconstitutional.
Significant court victory won by Jehovah's Witnesses where the court held it was unconstitutional for public schools to compel students to salute the flag.

Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township (Establishment Clause)

1947

NJ used tax money for transportation to private schools. State provided reimbursement to parents of students who attend either private or public schools and used public transportation. Court ruled in favor of NJ saying it had nothing to do with religion. However, the court did agree that there needed to be a distinct separation between the two.

McColum v. Board of Education

1948

Illinois allowed religious people to come in during the day and teach. Court says this violates the Establishment Clause.

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. Making someone say something is considered "coercion".

Westside Community Schools v. Mergens

1990

Westside Community School refused a group of students from forming a Bible Club. Courts ruled that school districts cannot prohibit Bible Study groups from meeting.