MORE ARTICLES FROM ‘Establishment Clause’

Much to-do about history for divided high court

Though sharply divided on whether legislative prayers in Greece, N.Y., are permissible, two Supreme Court justices agree that history factors into the constitutional calculus.

Establishment clause overview

The first of the First Amendment’s two religion clauses reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion … .” Note that the clause is absolute. It allows no law. It is also noteworthy that the clause forbids more than the establishment of religion by the government. It forbids even laws respecting an [...]


Over the past decade, several states have begun programs to give parents expense vouchers to help pay tuition at private schools, including religious schools. Do such payments constitute direct state aid to religion in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment? This question is at the heart of one of the longest-running church-state [...]

Legislative prayer

In the 1983 case of Marsh v. Chambers, the Supreme Court squarely addressed the question of whether it was a violation of the establishment clause for either Congress or the several state legislatures to provide for and pay a chaplain whose responsibility it would be to open their sessions with prayer. By a 6-3 vote, [...]

Charitable choice/faith-based initiatives

Faith-based initiatives: the phrase conjures up images as varied as those who invoke it.
Many believe that partnerships between government and the religious community have great potential for alleviating some of America’s most intractable social ills — homelessness, joblessness, drug addiction and juvenile crime. According to a 2001 poll by the Pew Center for the People [...]

Tax exemptions

(Author’s note: Throughout this section “church” is used to mean any place
of worship, such as a mosque, synagogue, temple, etc. It does not indicate a
preference for Christian houses of worship, but is the convention employed by
the IRS and therefore followed here for ease of use.)
Although using tax dollars for churches has a long and contentious [...]

Ten Commandments, other displays & mottos

Ten Commandments information

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …” — the First Amendment
Those 10 words — the first phrase of the Bill of Rights — have been the focus of hotly contested debates and countless lawsuits seeking to reach a consensus on precisely what the framers of the [...]