Government Sponsoring Religion


It is unconstitutional for local, state or federal governments 
to favor one religion over another? Government can show favoritism 
toward religion by displaying religious symbols in public places
at taxpayer expense, by sponsoring events like Christmas concerts, 
caroling, or by supporting the teaching of religious ideas. It appears 
the United States government has had a history of favoring 

 The United States government's favoritism of Christianity is a 
clear violation of the First Amendment. This amendment states that 
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or 
prohibiting the free exercise thereof." There is another reference to 
religion in Article 6, Section 3. This clause states "the United 
States and the several States shall be bound by oath or affirmation to 
support this Constitution, but no religious test shall ever be 
required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the 
United States." 

 There have been several court cases on this and related issues
which include Engel vs. Vitale, Everson vs. the Board of Education, 
and Lynch vs. Donnelly, the "Creche case".

 In 1947, in the Everson vs. Board of Education case, the 
Supreme Court ruled that the 14th amendment prevented the States and 
the and the Federal government from setting up a church, passing laws 
that favor any religion, or using tax money to support any religion. 
Justice Hugo Black "incorporated" the First Amendment's establishment 
clause into the 14th Amendment which states that "the State shall not 
deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws 
and due process. After this trial, people began to question whether 
school prayer was constitutional (pg. 93-94, Klinker).

 The "creche case," Lynch vs. Donnelly, came from Rhode Island 
in 1980. In this case, the city offical included a creche, or nativity 
scene, in their city's annual Christmas display that included all 
traditional Christmas symbols. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger 
represented the court's opinion when he stated that, "Nor does the 
constitution require complete separation of church and state; it 
affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all 
religions, and forbids hostility toward any." Justices Brennan, 
Marshall, Blackman, and Stevens dissented. They thought the "primary 
effect of including a nativity scene in the city's display is. . . to 
place the government's impremature approval on the particular 
religion's beliefs exemplified by the creche." They argued that it 
clearly violated the First Amendment (p. 99, Witt).

 These cases demonstrate a pattern of Constitutional thought by 
high courts prohibiting the promotion of particular religious ideas, 
and the spending of tax dollars on events that promote particular 
religious views. A logical extension of this pattern can be made to 
the spending of tax dollars for decorating towns on religious 
holidays, such as Christmas.

 Local, state, and federal governments attempt to get around 
the prohibitions of the Everson and Lynch cases by decorating the 
streets in town with non-religious symbols such as lights, trees, 
wreaths and other objects that symbolize the season. But, religious 
people think the season itself has religious meaning. Using tax money 
to decorate for a religious holiday not celebrated by everyone is 
unconstitutional because these symbols support one religion over no 
religion. The First Amendment prohibits this.

 We understand that public school prayer discriminates against 
some religious views so it is prohibited in public schools. Similarly, 
Christmas concerts play a role similar to the teaching of creationism 
and prayer. The Christmas concerts subconsiously influence students 
toward the beliefs of Christianity. To be fair to non-Christian 
groups, converting "Christmas" concerts to "Holiday" concerts would 
maintain the "separation of church and state."

 One could recognize the beliefs of many religions or none. One
could play music from several religions or non-religious music. 
Religion is a personal belief. There are so many religions to choose 
from, including the choice of no religion. It is impossible to decide 
that one belief is right and another is wrong. So it is reasonable to 
say that it is unconstitutional for government to favor Christianity 
over other religions, including Athieism. Instead of using tax dollars 
to decorate the streets for the holidays, we could use the money for 
other things like playgrounds and helping the homeless. Also, students 
could play music that has no religious meaning to please every belief 
or offend none. This way, government would be prevented from favoring 
one religion over another.


Henry, Richard, "Government in America", Houghton Mifflin Company, 
Boston, 1994 pg.141, 146, 148.

Klinker, Philip A., "The American Heritage History of the Bill of 
Rights", Silver Burdett Press., 1991 pg. 99-100, 109, 93.

"Darrow, Clarence Steward", "The American Peoples Encyclopedia vol.6 
", Grolier Incorporated, New York 1962, pg. 796.

Witt, Elder ,"The Supreme Court and Individual Rights", Second 
Edition, Congressional Quarterly Inc., Washington D.C., 1988, pg. 99


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