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While the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the government from passing a law establishing a national religion as you note, that was hardly the limit of its intended scope. The first Congress debated and rejected just such a narrow provision (“no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed”) and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. During his presidency, Madison vetoed two bills, neither of which would form a national religion or compel observance of any religion, on the ground that they were contrary to the establishment clause. While some in Congress expressed surprise that the Constitution prohibited Congress from incorporating a church in the town of Alexandria in the District of Columbia or granting land to a church in the Mississippi Territory, Congress upheld both vetoes. Separation of church and state is hardly a new invention of modern courts. In keeping with the Amendment’s terms and legislative history and other evidence, the courts have wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from taking steps that could establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude government from enacting a statute formally establishing a state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion–stopping just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church. And, the separation of church and state is not a leftie-rightie sort of thing.
The issue is to determine whether the display of religious symbols is by an individual (i.e., a particular member of the team) or the government (i.e., the football team set up and maintained by the public school). The First Amendment protects an individual's actions regarding religion and constrains the government's actions regarding religion.
You should check out the 14th Amendment, which applies to the states.
It is not apparent why you suppose the distinction between religion and a symbol of religion is dispositive here.
The issue is to ascertain whether the display of religious symbols is by an individual (i.e., a particular member of the team) or the government (i.e., the football team set up and maintained by the public school). The First Amendment protects an individual's actions regarding religion and constrains the government's actions regarding religion.
The issue in this case is to ascertain whether the display of religious symbols is by an individual (i.e., a particular member of the team) or the government (i.e., the football team set up and maintained by the public school). The First Amendment protects an individual's actions regarding religion and constrains the government's actions regarding religion.
Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution, much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the first place, the Supreme Court has thoughtfully, authoritatively, and repeatedly decided as much; it is long since established law. In the second place, the Court is right. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of "We the people" (not a deity), (2) according that government limited, enumerated powers, (3) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (4) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (5), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day (by which governments generally were grounded in some appeal to god(s)), the founders' avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which affirmatively constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.
In assessing the Constitution's effect with respect to speech and actions on religion, it is important to distinguish between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. (Students also are free to exercise and express their religious views--in a time, manner, and place that does not interfere with school programs and activities.) If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.
Hardly. They continue to enjoy their constitutional freedoms of association, speech, and religion and can exercise those freedoms to their hearts' content. They simply don't get funding and other benefits the college offers to officially "recognized" student groups.
Who said they can't "operate" on campus? They are free to do so. They continue to enjoy their constitutional freedoms of association, speech, and religion. They simply don't get funding or other benefits the college offers to organizations that it officially recognizes.
These organizations are free to do as they will without being officially "recognized" by the college. If they aren't interested in being funded or receiving any of the other offered benefits associated with recognition, then they don't need the college's recognition. They can simply do their thing.
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