An analysis of U.S. law concerning the first amendment, schools, and tuition vouchers
Brock, Russell Hill
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The question of how much government and religion should be entwined has historically been a volatile issue. Each day in the United States millions of students with unique religious beliefs enter hallways of American schools. Because schools are a government entity and are charged with educationally molding religiously diverse clients, the educational arena has evolved into the main judicial battleground for church-state issues. This study of the evolution of church-state separation and its subsequent infusion into the American educational system begins in biblical times and continues to Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002). This analysis was conducted to clarify and consolidate United States Supreme Court case law on church-state conflicts borne in education. The analysis was conducted through a variety of resources. United States Supreme Court briefs and opinions made up the bulk of reviewed literature. Also reviewed were historical documents and literature on the framing of the United States Constitution and other major historical documents relating to church-state separation. This study found the issue of educational church-state conflict to be more prevalent in the Eastern Seaboard states. Thirty percent of all educational church-state cases originated in the 2nd Circuit Court. The study found the United States Supreme Court has shown to be more apt to tolerate church-state entanglement if caused by free parental choice or if the entanglement has a purpose designed to help people, or groups of people of any religion, and not designed to directly aid religious institutions. Governments cannot gerrymander school districts in order to aid a specific religious group or religious private school. An examination of Zelman (2002) found public funding of private religious school tuition with vouchers is legal if the aid reaches the school through parental choice, and the program is set up with the primary purpose of aiding school children in a poorly performing school district.