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History - History, Essay

How does our Constitution change? As you learned in your text, there are generally three ways. A formal amendment can be approved by Congress and ratified by the legislatures of 3/4 of the states. Sometimes, the meaning just evolves - as the President's role in war changed during the Cold War. The most common way, though, is through judicial interpretation, especially by the U.S. Supreme Court. The First Amendment to the Constitution begins "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." What exactly does that mean? The first part (the "establishment clause") originally meant only that Congress couldn't establish an official national religion. Many American colonists left England, where the church and state were one entity, and wanted to avoid letting that happen again. Over the years, though, the Supreme Court has take a somewhat broader view, and the issue has gotten more complicated. If a public school begins each day with students bowing their heads and praying, is that an "establishment of religion?" The Court has said yes. In December, can the city have a Christmas tree in front of City Hall? The court has said yes - that's a fairly generic holiday decoration, despite the name. What about a nativity scene? The court has said no, that's a celebration of a specific event from the Gospel of Luke in the Christian Bible. The court has said at various times, that Harris County couldn't display a Bible in front of its courthouse, but that the State Capitol in Austin can keep a monument with the Ten Commandments on it. As I said, it's complicated. The second part, the "free exercise clause," has had similar lines drawn. Yes, practitioners of certain indigenous American religions can use peyote, even though it's a controlled substance. No, you can't practice human sacrifice, even if your religion honestly believes in it. Missouri has an innovative program that recycles tires to make rubberized surfaces for school playgrounds. It's a way to recycle a pesky waste product that doesn't bio-degrade easily, takes up space in landfills and breeds mosquitoes. Trinity Lutheran Church, in Columbia, Missouri, operates a preschool for about 90 kids. They applied for a grant to rubberize their playground under the used tire program. Missouri said no, citing a law that "bars giving state aid to a school that is owned or controlled by a church, sect or denomination and where the applicant's mission is spiritual in nature." If a secular private school can be a part of this program, and a religious school can't, is that a violation of the free exercise of religion? Find a Supreme Court case called Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, which - as I'm writing this assignment, has been argued but not yet decided. Write a 2 - 5 page (double spaced, normal margins, etc.) essay about the case. Explain the basic arguments for each side. If you were on the Supreme Court, how would you rule in this case? Submit in Word. Cite your sources. Additional Resources The SCOTUS blog is always a great place to start when you're researching a Supreme Court case: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/trinity-lutheran-church-of-columbia-inc-v-pauley/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. Adam Liptak covers Supreme Court issues for the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/us/politics/supreme-court-church-state.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. Oyez lays out the basic facts: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2016/15-577 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. National Review looks at the case from a conservative point of view: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/446826/supreme-court-church-state-case-trinity-lutheran-could-be-big-win (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. The American Civil Liberties Union takes the opposite view: https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/state-missouri-was-right-say-no-church-playground-renovations-taxpayers-dime (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
How does our Constitution change? As you learned in your text, there are generally three ways. A formal amendment can be approved by Congress and ratified by the legislatures of 3/4 of the states. Sometimes, the meaning just evolves - as the President's role in war changed during the Cold War. The most common way, though, is through judicial interpretation, especially by the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Assignment ID
191267
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CREATED ON
31 May 2017
COMPLETED ON
1 June 2017
Price
$30
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