Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Engel v. Vitale

Case Name: Engel v. Vitale

Year: 1962

Result: 6-1, favor Engel

Related Constitutional Issue/Amendment: Amendment I, Freedom of Religion, Establishment Clause

Civil Rights or Civil Liberties: Civil Liberties

Significance/Precedent: This was the first case that led to a bunch of cases limiting governmental religious activities. New York could not allow prayer in public schools because it violated the establishment clause and was therefore unconstitutional. These rules still apply today, as we cannot say prayers in public schools.

Quote from Majority Opinion: "We think that, by using its public school system to encourage recitation of the Regents' prayer, the State of New York has adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause. There can, of course, be no doubt that New York's program of daily classroom invocation of God's blessings as prescribed in the Regents' prayer is a religious activity...It is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government."

Summary of the Dissent: The dissent believed that a prayer at the start of the school day did not establish an official religion. They believed that the Court was being too sensitive in deciding whether or not something violates the establishment clause in the First Amendment.
Quote: "With all respect, I think the Court has misapplied a great constitutional principle. I cannot see how an "official religion" is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it. On the contrary, I think that to deny the wish of these school children to join in reciting this prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation.

Six-word Summary: Prayer in school violates religious freedom

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