Last updated on: 6/30/2008 10:31:00 AM PST
What Are Some of the Theories and Supreme Court Tests Used to Analyze the Religious Clauses of the Constitution's First Amendment?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
1791 - Bill of Rights (8 KB)
The following Theories and Supreme Court tests have been compiled from several sources, including the Summer 2003 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Vanderbilt University's First Amendment Center, and Douglas Laycock, JD:
II. Supreme Court Tests
Lemon Test: From the 1971 Supreme Court decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman, in which the Court struck down a state program providing financial aid to religious elementary and secondary schools. The Court said that for a statute to comply with the Establishment Clause, three things must be true:
Lemon Test redux: From the 1997 Supreme Court decision in Agostini v. Felton, in which the Court held that allowing public school teachers to teach in parochial schools does not violate the Establishment Clause. The Court identified three primary criteria for determining that government aid has a primary effect of advancing religion:
Endorsement Test: Proposed by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in the 1984 case of Lynch v. Donnelly. States that a government action is invalid if it creates a perception in the mind of a reasonable observer that the government is either endorsing or disapproving of religion.
Neutrality Test: Cited first as a guiding principle in Everson v. Board of Education, neutrality meant government was neither the ally nor adversary of religion. The government would treat religious groups the same as other similarly situated groups.
- Douglas Laycock, JD
First Amendment Center
Harvard Civil Rights - Civil Liberties Law Review