William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal


Nadine Strossen


In this essay Professor Strossen addresses the controversial subject of religion in the public schools. She argues that while there may well be instances of unconstitutional government suppression of religious expression, there are certainly many examples of the opposite--unconstitutional government promotion of religion. Professor Strossen discusses the guiding principles governing the relationship between religion and the public schools, as set out by the Supreme Court. She stresses the First Amendment demand that public schools remain neutral toward religion. While they may and should teach about religion, schools may not promote either religion in general or any particular religion. Professor Strossen also addresses the concept of "student-initiated" graduation prayer, and argues that this is merely an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court's holding in Lee v. Weisman, which held that school-sponsored graduation prayer violates the Establishment Clause. She maintains that although the Supreme Court has not directly addressed this issue, when it does, it will hold this form of prayer unconstitutional under the reasoning in Weisman. Additionally, Professor Strossen addresses truly student-initiated, non-school-sponsored religious expression, which is protected under the Free Speech Clause. She shows, however, that this type of student expression has been given more protection than other types of student speech, which may raise problems under the Free Speech and Establishment Clauses. Finally, Professor Strossen addresses certain misperceptions about the Supreme Court's holdings regarding religion in the public schools.

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