Separation of Church and State: A First Amendment Primer
Separation: Good for Government, Good for Religion
Violations of the Separation of Church and State
Public Schools: Teaching Democracy, Not Dogma
Violations of Church-State Separation in Our Public Schools
What You Can Do

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Separation of Church and State:
A First Amendment Primer
Violations of the Separation of Church and State

Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black best expressed the purpose and function of the Establishment Clause when he said that it rests "on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion." Some Americans reject this dictum, promoting the idea that the government should endorse the religious values of certain members of the community to the exclusion of others. In fact, such violations of the separation of church and state take place with disturbing frequency in American government, at local, state and Federal levels. Recent incidents include the following:

  • An Alabama judge regularly opens his court sessions with a Christian prayer. Further, he has refused to remove a plaque containing the Ten Commandments from his courtroom wall. Alabama Governor Fob James has threatened to call in the Alabama National Guard to prevent the plaque's removal.
  • Local municipalities have erected nativity scenes, crosses, menorahs and other religious symbols to the exclusion of those of other faiths.
  • The Board of Aldermen of a Connecticut city has opened its sessions with a prayer that beseeches citizens to "elect Christian men and women to office so that those who serve will be accountable . . . to the teachings of Jesus Christ . . . ."
  • A variety of religious groups are demanding that their faith-based social service programs receive public funding although these programs engage in aggressive proselytizing and religious indoctrination.
  • On the "National Day of Prayer," local authorities acting in their official capacities have led citizens in sectarian prayer.

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