Church & State What Does Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Free exercise can be explained as follows: "If a rigidly observed policy of neutrality would discriminate against campus organizations with religious purposes or impinge on an individual's right to freedom of speech or free exercise of religion," then a state organization such as a public school would be obliged to permit religion on campus (p. 43). However, the free speech clause of the First Amendment has been cited for reasons to allow religious expression on school campuses: and in some instances proves more effective than the free exercise clause (p. 44). Private institutions have significantly greater leeway in the freedom of religious expression, and state governments also offer significant protections of religious expression.

The free exercise and establishment clauses are more naturally reconciled in private institutions. Private institutions "have no obligation of neutrality," and can establish religion as they see fit and in most cases regulate religious expression (p. 44). The establishment clause prevents the courts from interfering in private institutions that are religiously affiliated: "these clauses affirmatively protect the religious beliefs and practices of private religious institutions from government interference," (p. 44). State-sponsored institutions are, on the other hand, unable to establish religion, but at the same time are obliged to protect the right of religious expression.

Yet private institutions may be subject to some government scrutiny when the free exercise clause clashes with other constitutional rights such as equal protection. For example, in Bob Jones University v. United States the Supreme Court rules that free exercise cannot be used as justification for racial discrimination (p. 44-45). The state may also sponsor aid programs that are religiously neutral, but which grant financial support to students affiliated with religious institutions. In cases like those, the government maintains a neutral stance regarding religion (p. 48).

Institutions are somewhat protected against government interference. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) permits greater government scrutiny of religious institutions, and was partly inspired by the Bob Jones University v. United States case. Similarly, the RFRA permits public institutions to pass regulations that restrict religious expression (p. 45). For instance, a public school can prevent individual teachers from practicing religion in the classroom.

Neutrality is the goal of the free exercise and the establishment clauses of the First Amendment. The clauses are invoked when government neutrality is called into question. Neutrality can mean non-interference with a private institution, or it can mean government oversight in a public institution.…

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