Wall of Separation

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.

Let's Talk About Vouchers, Part One (What Happened In Cleveland?)

Angry ElephantThe Oklahoma GOP has for some time now held unchecked control of both the State Legislature and the Governor’s chair. Voters have handed them the keys, a 12-pack of Keystone, and encouraged them to have their way with the state. You’ve no doubt noticed the resulting prosperity trickling down all around you.

A Wall of Separation - The Story So Far...

Church and StateNow that the elections are over and all that is good or true in the world has been destroyed, I'm trying to shift my focus back to educational stuff. You know, the things that at one time seemed important enough to shape the title of this blog?

Here's my in-progress summary of cases involving church/state issues in relation to public schooling - and a few which aren't.

A Wall of Separation - Agostini v. Felton (1997)

ABC JesusIn 1985, the Supreme Court heard a case from NYC in which public school teachers were being sent into parochial schools to provide remedial education to disadvantaged students. It was decided in Aguilar v. Felton (1985) that this created an excessive entanglement of church and state, violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as applied to the states via the Fourteenth.

Twelve years later, the Court changed its mind.

A Wall of Separation - Vouchers Approacheth

Private PublicBeginning in the 1980s, the “wall of separation” between church and state stopped getting higher. The Court’s application of the First Amendment to public schooling became somewhat more sympathetic to people of faith. 

It wasn’t an outright change of direction so much as an evolution in subtleties. The devil, as they say, is in the details.