Civil Liberties Assignment - Congress shall make no law
Civil Liberties Assignment
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
- First Amendment, United States Constitution
There are two parts to First Amendment religious freedom. The part before the comma is the Establishment Clause. Originally, most scholars think it just meant the federal government couldn't establish an official religion for the nation. Over time, it has been interpreted more broadly to mean the government can't promote any specific religion, or religion in general. This gets tricky. It's why there can be a Christmas tree in front of City Hall in December, but not a Nativity Scene. A Christmas tree, while certainly a Christian symbol, is widely seen by many as more of a generic holiday decoration while a Nativity Scene is a depiction of a specific event in the Gospel of Luke, part of the Christian New
The part after the comma is the Free Exercise Clause, and means the government can't interfere with a person's right to practice their religion in most cases. This can also get tricky. Courts have ruled that legitimate practitioners of certain indigenous Americanreligions can use peyote - an illegal Schedule I controlled substance - in religious ceremonies. On the other hand, you can't practice human sacrifice, no matter how sincerely you might believe in it.
Joseph Kennedy was a football coach at Bremerton High School. He prayed at midfield after each game – first alone, but later with players and even some members of the opposing team joining him. After a scene that the school district describes as chaotic, with spectators and reporters knocking down members of the band in an effort to join Kennedy at midfield, the school district told him that his prayers violated the district’s policy and offered him other options to pray – for example, after the crowd had left. Kennedy continued to pray at games, prompting the district to place him on administrative leave and, eventually, decline to renew his contract for the following season. On the one hand, Kennedy - by all accounts - did this on his own, and those who joined him did so voluntarily. On the other hand, this was a public display of religion led by a government employee on a field owned and operated by the taxpayers in conjunction with a government-sponsored sporting event.
Where should we draw the line between prohibiting the government from "establishing" religion and a policy that would unconstitutionally interfere with a person's free exercise of their religious faith?
Find the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. Write our usual 2 page double spaced essay.
Explain what the majority decided and why. Explain what a dissenting opinion is, and why Justice Sotomayor wrote one to disagree with her colleagues in this case. Finally, if you were on the U.S. Supreme Court, how would you rule in this case and why?
Submit in Word. Cite your sources.
This article by Amy Howe has a good introduction: https://www.scotusblog.com/2022/06/justices-side-with-high-school-football-coach-wh o-prayed-on-the-field-with-students/Here's background from the SCOTUS blog: https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/kennedy-v-bremerton-school-district-2/Here's the actual case: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/21-418
A former Katy High School football player says the "voluntary" part isn't quite so simple: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/Opinion-I-was-a-Katy-High-f ootball-co-captain-17290739.php
In a 2016 case, the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of cheerleaders who - without direction from the school - had put Bible verses on banners and displayed them at football games. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-texas-cheerleaders/texas-supreme-court-sides-with- cheerleaders-on-bible-banners-idUSKCN0V72PP
Previously, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas could keep a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol (https://www.oyez.org/cases/2004/03-1500 (Links to an external site.), but declined to overturn a decision that Harris County had to remove a Bible from a display in front of the Harris County Courthouse (https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Supreme-Court-spurns-Harris-Cou nty-s-Bible-fight-1825456.php