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Published: May 29, 2011

Establishment Clause

An abbreviated label for the first 10 words of the First Amendment of the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . .” The restrictions imposed on the federal government by the First Amendment were extended to apply to state governments in the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868. The Establishment Clause has been a center of controversy throughout the history of American education, as public schools across the United States, often with the support of state legislative mandates, have attempted to introduce PRAYER IN SCHOOL as well as religious teachings such as the biblical story of the creation of the world. Dozens of court decisions, including many by the U.S. Supreme Court, have consistently declared such efforts unconstitutional on the basis of the Establishment Clause, but the efforts nevertheless continue. (See especially AGUILAR V. FELTON CHURCH-STATE CONFLICTS; ENGEL V. VITALE; EPPERSON V. ARKANSAS; EVERSON V. BOARD OF EDUCATION; MCCOLLUM V. BOARD OF EDUCATION; SCOPES MONKEY TRIAL.)