First Amendment

"Have To" History: Zorach v. Clauson (1952)

The celebrations of freedom and democracy which lingered after World War II were rapidly fading in favor of fear, suspicion, and a sense of persecuted minority status among the straight white Protestants who still made up nearly 90% of the nation’s population (and virtually 100% of its leadership). Historically, it seems, nothing threatens entrenched demographic power like a handful of outliers thinking their lives matter as well.

"Have To" History: McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)

Three Big Things:

1. McCollum v. Board of Education was the first Supreme Court case to test the idea of “released time” during the school day for religious instruction by outside groups or religious leaders.

2. The Court’s four different written opinions demonstrate the complexity of applying absolutist rhetoric (“wall of separation”) to specific circumstances without trampling on the rights of local decision-makers.

3. The issues debated in McCollum reappeared in various iterations long after this particular decision and still come up in only slightly modified forms today.

A Wall of Separation - Everson v. Board of Education (1947)

Prior to the 14th Amendment, the protections offered by the Bill of Rights applied primarily to the Federal Government. While most States had similar protections in their own constitutions, these were inconsistent and locally interpreted.

The 14th Amendment changed all of that in ways neither immediate nor obvious. Passed in 1868 as part of the ‘Reconstruction Amendments,’ its initial intent was to guarantee full and equal citizenship for Freedmen – newly freed Black Americans.

It reads, in part:

Building A Wall of Separation (Faith & School)

The U.S. Constitution was written as a replacement for the Articles of Confederation – our first effort at writing a broad set of laws by which to govern the nation. The Articles had guaranteed the States almost complete sovereignty and absolute independence from one another – a great idea in theory, but not as workable as one might hope in practice. 

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