Wall of Separation

"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.

Moment of Silence - Bown v. Gwinnett County School District (1997) / Brown v. Gilmore (2001)

Two cases in the early 1960s largely eliminated state-sponsored prayer from public schooling. Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington v. Schempp (1963) are to this day touted by the far right as responsible for having kicked God out of schools – leading inevitably to sex, drugs, violence, rock’n’roll, corduroy, divorce, the pill, AIDS, the Clintons, terrorism, and a Kenyan sleeper-cell Mooslim illegitimately seizing the White House for eight long, painful years.

The solution, of course, is to get God back IN our schools by requiring regimented recitation of state-approved chants. He LOVES those! Do this, we are assured, and America’s problems will vanish faster than you can say “civil liberties!”

Wall of Separation (Supreme Court Cases & Such) - Updated

Church and StateA few months ago, I started blogging about Supreme Court cases delineating the relationships between religion and public schooling. In order to use some of the case summaries in class, I started editing and reformatting them afterwards. Then I figured since the work was already being done, and this effort at providing classroom resources in PDF format was already underway... why not just post them as I go?

Santa Fe ISD v. Doe (2000), Part One: Overview

Upset StudentOn the surface, Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000) rose out of fairly mundane circumstances to become a defining moment in jurisprudence involving prayer and public schools. Santa Fe is a rural district in southeastern Texas, not far from Galveston. They typically began home football games with prayer, and included similar expressions of faith during graduation. A Mormon family and a Catholic family complained, and the case worked its way up to the Supreme Court.

The school modified its policies along the way so that students first voted on whether or not to have an opening prayer at games, and when they voted 'yes' (there was never really any doubt about that part) they’d cast ballots to see who would lead it. The district hoped this would make the prayer a student-driven activity and insulate it from constitutional challenges. It didn’t.

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