Essay on First Amendment

Submitted By miasumra
Words: 623
Pages: 3

The First Amendment’s Right of Religion The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (Janda 458). The Establishment Clause prohibits laws establishing religion and the Free­Exercise Clause prevents the government from interfering with the exercise of religion (458). The Supreme Court cases Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) and Employment Division V. Smith (1989) are two cases that are based on the two freedom of religion clauses. The President and Congress can impact the Supreme Court cases. The Supreme Court case, Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) decision was based on the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Alton Lemon filed a lawsuit arguing that Pennsylvania's state law that helps parochial schools for secular teacher salaries, instructional material, and textbook, violates the freedom of religion. The Lemon case established a three pronged Lemon Test. One, the government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose. Two, the government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion. Three, the government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion. The Lemon Test became a part of the Establishment Clause. If any of these three prongs are violated, the government action is deemed unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause. The program in Lemon did satisfy the last prong in the Lemon test. The Supreme Court case, Employment Division v. Smith (1989) decision was based on the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. Employment Division filed a lawsuit against Alfred Smith arguing that Smith was not given unemployment benefits because he was fired from his job for using illegal hallucinations for a Native American religious ceremony. Oregon won 6­3 and Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority, saying that the court has never held that an individual’s beliefs in religion

excuses them from following other laws. Justice Scalia also wrote that allowing exception to every state law affecting religion "would open the prospect of constitutionally required exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind" (Employment). The President and the Congress are two political institutions that limit the impact of Supreme Court decision. The President is the one who gets to nominate the Supreme Court Justices. For example, George W. Bush, a conservative appointed Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who was also