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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Practice of permitting public school students to attend classes in religious instruction offered by community volunteers during regular school hours.

Under a 1943 state law, a Champaign, Illinois, school board undertook a program whereby local clergy came into public school buildings to offer religious instruction for one class period each week to those students whose parents consented to the exercise. For others, study hall was available. Justice Hugo L. Black, writing for the Supreme Court in Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education[case]Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education[Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education] (1948), ruled that the practice violated the establishment clause because tax-supported property was used for religious purposes and because the state’s compulsory attendance law assisted in a fundamental way the program of religious instruction.Religion, establishment of

Wishing to avoid the same constitutional infirmity, New York state permitted its public school students to attend religious instruction classes off school grounds. Challenged in Zorach v. Clauson[case]Zorach v. Clauson[Zorach v. Clauson] (1952), the practice was upheld. Justice William O. Douglas, writing for the Court, ruled that the change in locale constituted a sufficient separation of church and state. Adopting a more accommodating position than the Court had in McCollum, Douglas said, “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.”

Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township

Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education

Religion, establishment of

School prayer

Zorach v. Clauson

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