Separation of Church and State and the Constitutional Rights
It is believed that the government of the United States is not to be involved in
religion because there is a separation between church and state. The First Amendment to
the Constitution the Government clearly makes the statement about freedom of religion.
But do the lines between the two ever cross? In the following scenarios you will have to
decide whether or not the Federal Government should intervene on behalf of the people
and into “religious territory,” or if there is a clear separation between the two institutions
(church and state). You may be surprised at how often the lines blur.
1. Can people refuse to give the pledge of allegiance for religious reasons? Children in
schools give it every morning before school starts, but does the school have the right
to tell all students to give it or risk a detention?
2. Can men be exempt from the military draft because of religious reasons? “Thou shall
not kill” is a pretty clear commandment in the Ten Commandments. If men do refuse
to fight, should they be thrown into jails?
3. A group of teenagers want to form a club that focuses on studying the Bible at school.
Can the group do this in a public school, or can’t they because of the separation of
church and state principle?
4. An Atheist sues the Federal Government because the money we all use has the
phrase, “In God we trust.” Should the Federal Government change all of its monetary
notes because of the separation of church and state?
5. A teacher wishes to teach a short unit on Christianity
in history class. Can the teacher teach about religion
in a public school?
6. A teenager tells a pastor that he wants to commit
suicide. The pastor doesn’t tell the students’ parents
because of his right to privacy. The student
committed suicide. The parents later found out that
the pastor knew about their teenagers’ thoughts and
decide to sue. Who do they have the right to sue- the
church, the pastor, both, or neither?
7. A teenager is dying of cancer, but his parents refuse to take him to a cancer research
center because they are Christian Scientists (who believe that God will heal him).
Should the government force the parents to take their child to the cancer research
8. Communities of Amish people in Wisconsin refuse to send their teenagers to high
school because the high school is too “worldly” or modern for their teenagers to go
to. Should the Amish teens not go to school because it’s against their culture, or
should they go to school because what if they grow up and want to live outside of
their Amish community?
9. A national disaster has just occurred. Everyone is in shock. A principal at school
calls for a “moment of silence” in honor of the victims of the disaster. Is a moment of
silence a form of silent prayer, and should be outside of school?
10. Some Americans think that if all religion is taken out of school, the nation will teach
the students to be completely moral less. Do you agree with this statement? Use an
example to support your opinion.