Government Sponsoring Religion Essay Research Paper Government

Government Sponsoring Religion- Essay, Research Paper

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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