8 landmark church-state court decisions that shook America

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Greece v. Galloway is just the latest in a long line of religious freedom cases to reach the Supreme Court. Here’s a look at some of the biggest free exercise and Establishment Clause issues the Supremes have tackled over the years.

  • Brian Pellot

    Pew Research provides a good overview of Greece v. Galloway re Marsh v. Chambers precedent. Check it out! http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/11/06/5-facts-about-the-u-s-supreme-courts-public-prayer-case/

  • Terri

    Good afternoon Brian, I am a 45 year old mother of 2 and grandmother of 6, I am a christian believer and I want to make a law: No student will be not allowed to play any type of sport on Sundays, Sundays will be set aside for the day of family and recreation. Our children spend 5 days a week in school minus holidays and I believe Sundays should not be allowed a day of any type of competition of any sort. If you can help me or guide me to the appropriate person to begin this accomplishment. I live in Richmond Indiana.

  • Jack B.

    Good list, but a minor correction: Kitzmiller v. Dover was decided at the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, not SCOTUS.

  • James

    Terri, the law you propose would require amending the Constitution. You should contact your Congressman to get the ball rolling on an amendment. I believe your Congressman is Luke Messer. His website is http://messer.house.gov/ . Good luck.

  • Brian Pellot

    You’re absolutely right re Kitzmiller v. Dover, Jack. I’ve amended the text above to say United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania rather than SCOTUS. Many thanks.

  • mike

    Brian: Thank you for the wonderful list. I was feeling a bit down today until I read it.

  • RM

    Honorable mention: Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah. The court ruled that the City of Hialeah’s ordinance prohibiting animal sacrifice unconstitutional.

    “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection”.– Justice Anthony Kennedy

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  • Sam

    Why the Sundays, why not Saturday? Or any other day of the week?
    I hope it’s not going to be religion-based, since then you won’t have much of a chance getting this done.

    Also “No student will be not allowed to play any type of sport on Sundays.” Makes it seem like they will be having to play sports.

    Finally, why do you want to tell other people what to do in their free time?

  • Larry

    Unless you have a legitimate, non-BS secular purpose attached to it, it would never fly. It would appear to be government endorsement of Christianity.

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  • Bob Ritter

    Brian, a good summary of church-state conlaw. I would add Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) “in which the court reaffirmed that the United States Constitution prohibits States and the Federal Government from requiring any kind of religious test for public office, in the specific case, as a notary public.” (Wikipedia)

    As an Atheist, I have taken issue Americans United position in Town of Greece v. Galloway on my Secular Law blog at http://www.secularlaw.blogspot.com. AU’s support for nonsectarian prayers doesn’t protect the liberty of nontheists — the freedom from government sponsored prayer. No matter which side wins in Galloway, there will still be God-belief at the town council’s meetings. Instead, AU should have argued for either no prayer or a moment of silence. That’s what separation of church and state requires.

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