Seperation of Church & State

The United States was founded on the principal of the separation of church and state and is identified as the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.   Thomas Jefferson referred to this First Amendment as a “wall of separation” between the church and state (Wikipedia, 2010).   James Madison, the primary drafter of the United States Bill of Rights, was also an early supporter of the separation of church and state and stated that "practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government is essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States." (ibid.)

Different status and case laws may vary from state to state.   However, the public educational institutions in this country are considered a governmental agency, and therefore are required to follow this policy.   The case of McCollum v. Board of Education District 71 (333 U.S. 203) in 1948 resulted in the broad decision that religious instruction in public schools is a violation of the establishment clause and therefore is unconstitutional ( More recent cases involve specific determinations with regard to the educational practices being used throughout the public schools.   The Supreme Court Everson decision in 1947 decided that “neither [a state nor the Federal government ] can pass laws that aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another” (McDaniel, 1979).   These are rather general decisions that upheld the First Amendment, which has been now more specifically applied and ruled upon in recent years specific to educational institutions.

In 1971 the Supreme Court ruled in Lemon v. Kurtzman   that separation of church and state government action or legislation in education much clear a three-pronged test, including 1) not have a religious purpose, 2) not have the primary effect of either enforcing or inhibiting religion, and 3) not create “excessive entanglement”   between church...