Anonymous asked in Society & CultureReligion & Spirituality · 1 decade ago

R&S normals: Wallace v. Jaffree, 1985, what is your viewpoint on it?

In Zorach v. Clauson, 1952, The Supreme Court declared that Americans "are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions. For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates public service to their spiritual needs."

Differing decisions handed down by the Court in the past 50 years, including the celebrated Lemon test of 1971, often seemed to contradict one another. The Court, like the country, struggled to achieve what journalist and commentator Fred Friendly called a "delicate balance" between religion and government.

Throughout the 1960's, case after case before the Court required a decision regarding the separation of religious activities from the public school systems. In its Engel, Schempp, and Murray decisions, the Court ordered schools to end Bible-reading, group prayer, or a time of prayer as an official part of the school day. A storm of protests followed these decisions, while many school districts substituted "moment of silence" for previous religious activities.

Those who objected to the "wall of separation" challenged the court. The Establishment Clause, they argued, was intended only to prevent the establishment of a State Church such as the Church of England. "The intent of the Framers"-as a point argued before the Court- became a significant question in Wallace v. Jaffree.


I am on a neutral standpoint on this topic, But I am interested in the opinions of those who take the time to read this.

How has this affected the governments policy of separation of church and state?

Can you think of any more controversial issues past the introduction of Evolution in the Classrooms?

Update 2:

Wild Thing: hehe, im not actually quoting it, im reading it from the paper in my Government class. I find it interesting nonetheless, and how the Legislature overrode the Supreme Courts decision about half way through.

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I was just basically going to reference the Lemon 71 decision but its in your comments so,

    Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952), was a case at the Supreme Court of the United States.

    Under 3210 of the New York Education Law and the regulations thereunder, New York City permits its public schools to release students during school hours, on written requests of their parents, so that they may leave the school buildings and grounds and go to religious centers for religious instruction or devotional exercises. The same section makes school attendance compulsory; students not released stay in the classrooms; and the churches report to the schools the names of children released from public schools who fail to report for religious instruction. The program involves neither religious instruction in public schools nor the expenditure of public funds. Held: This program does not violate the First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. McCollum v. Board of Education, distinguished. Pp. 308-315.

    (a) By this system, New York has neither prohibited the "free exercise" of religion nor made a law "respecting an establishment of religion" within the meaning of the First Amendment. Pp. 310-315.

    (b) There is no evidence in the record in this case to support a conclusion that the system involves the use of coercion to get public school students into religious classrooms. Pp. 311-312.

    A widely quoted sentence from the decision is "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being."[1]

    Majority Douglas, joined by Vinson, Reed, Burton, Clark, Minton

    Dissent Black

    Dissent Frankfurter

    Dissent Jackson

    The justice listed here in the majority - Douglas - is pretty awesome.

    So I might print this out and read it later - cause Douglas is fascinating - but I think your taking a quote and putting the quote up there and that's fine, but the gist of what is being said is that students are able to leave public school to go to a church for church school - but that not all kids are required to do this.

    I guess my opinion on this decision is the kids right to religion needs to be respected, and if the kids are enrolled in public school and meeting requirements to pass then I'm not opposed to them leaving.

    This leaves the secular curriculum in the public school alone.

    In short - way to go Douglas!

    Source(s): Edit regarding the 1985 decision, With Justice Stevens writing the majority opinion, the Court decided 6-3 that the Alabama law providing for a moment of silence was unconstitutional. Stevens is awesome, I think Stevens took over Douglas's seat. You can see here Stevens basically saying - keep education secular in public school!
  • 1 decade ago

    I think it should be permissible to teach religion in public schools. We just all need to agree that since Roman Catholicism is the largest religion on the planet, it will be the religion taught in our school system and adopted by the US Government as the officially sanctioned faith. If all the religious people want rule by the majority, then that is the only decision that makes sense.

    However, if we can't all come to a common consensus that Roman Catholicism is what should be practiced in our public school system, then perhaps we should maintain our status quo of not practicing any religion in our schools. That was the intent of the original framers of the US Constitution when they enacted a separation between church and state. The nations founders understood the dangers of allowing a majority religion to overrun every other faith, and placed safeguards to allow people to practice their faith as they wished without interference by the government.

    I'm sure most people in this country would not like to have the government decide for them which religion their children will be taught. Since no one can come to a universal consensus about which religious practices everyone finds acceptable, it is best to leave religious choice to the parents of the children. We should let them provide the religious instruction they deem proper in their homes and places of worship.

    I hope this helps.

    Source(s): Agnostic who understands the unknown can not be proved.
  • 1 decade ago

    The outward acceptance and promotion of tolerance toward homosexuality in public schools?

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think it really goes to show that as the Justices change then you just see a bouncing back and forth of decisions. In that regard it will never really change it will just bounce back and forth.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago


    You said "R&S Normals"...

    That excludes ME.

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