Discuss the First Amendment as it relates to religion. Discuss both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause. How has the Court interpreted these concepts? Are there no limits on religious freedom? What has the Supreme Court said? Is there a clear and impermeable wall between church and state, or is this more subtle? Discuss the Supreme Court's "Lemon Test."  

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Please note: This post contains numerous questions. The eNotes Homework Help policy allows for one question per post. This answer primarily addresses the initial statements and the questions about the Supreme Court.

In the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, religion is the first subject presented, and “establishment” precedes “free...

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Please note: This post contains numerous questions. The eNotes Homework Help policy allows for one question per post. This answer primarily addresses the initial statements and the questions about the Supreme Court.

In the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, religion is the first subject presented, and “establishment” precedes “free exercise.” Establishment has been understood to mean both the founding of a religion and the institution of an official religion within the country—the latter is what is generally referred to as “separation of church and state.” Free exercise means freedom to worship in any religion (not limited to Christian denominations), and it more recently has been understood to mean freedom from worshiping or having religious faith.

Both clauses have been used as support for prohibiting discrimination against anyone in the United States on the basis of their religion. In regard to "establishment," one good example is public office. Religion is not a requirement for government service: public officials need not belong to a specific religion or believe in God to serve or run. This aspect of the amendment was addressed in the 1961 Torcaso v. Watkins case, which regarded required belief in God for candidates; the court ruled that such a requirement violated the Establishment Clause.

The 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman case involved a Pennsylvania law about using state funds to pay teachers at religious schools. The test established with this case concerned the constitutionality of a statute. The three parts concern whether the statute’s purpose is secular, neither aids nor inhibits religion, or involves excessive entanglement of government and religion.

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