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Finding Common Ground - 2007 revision, by Charles C. Haynes and Oliver Thomas

Al-Hibri, Azizah Y., Elshtain, Jean Bethke, and Haynes, Charles C., Religion in American Public Life: Living with Our Deepest Differences. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 2001
Hunter, James Davison, and Guinness, Os, eds., Articles of Faith, Articles of Peace: The Religious Liberty Clauses and the American Public Philosophy. Washington: Brookings Institution, 1990
Nord, Warren A., Religion and American Education: Re-thinking an American Dilemma. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995
Nord, Warren A., and Haynes, Charles C., Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1998


Distributing religious literature

Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Stafford Township, 386 F 3d 514 (3rd Cir. 2004)
Child Evangelism Fellowship of Md., Inc. v. Montgomery County Pub. Sch., 373 F.3d 589 (4th Cir. 2004)
Rusk v. Crestview Local Sch. Dist., 3798 F.3d 418 (6th Cir. 2004)
Westfield High Sch. L.I.F.E. Club v. Westfield, 249 F.Supp.2d 98, 125 (D. Mass. 2003)
Hills v. Scottsdale Unified School Dist., 329 F.3d 1044 (9th Cir. 2003)
Peck v. Upshur County Bd. of Ed., 155 F.3d 274 (4th Cir. 1998)
Muller by Muller v. Jefferson Lighthouse School, 98 F.3d 1530 (7th Cir. 1996)
Johnston-Loehner v. O’Brien, 859 F.Supp. 575 (M.D. Fla. 1994)
Berger by Berger v. Rensselaer Central School Corp., 982 F.2d 1160 (7th Cir. 1993)
Hedges v. Wauconda Community Unit School District, 9 F.3d 1295 (7th Cir. 1993)
Rivera v. East Otero School Dist R-1, 721 F.Supp. 1189, 1194 (D. Colo. 1989)


Graduation ceremonies

Supreme Court
Sante Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000)
Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992)

Doe v. Nelson 340 F.3d 605 (8th Cir. 2003)
Adler v. Duval County School Bd., 112 F.3d 1475 (11th Cir. 2002)
Skarin v. Woodbine Community School, 204 F.Supp.2d 1195 (2002)
Adler v. Duval County, 250 F.3d 1330 (11th Cir. 2001), cert. denied, 122 S. Ct. 664 (2001)
Cole v. Oroville Union High School Dist., 228 F.3d 1092 (2000)
Doe v. Madison School Dist., 177 F.3d 789 (9th Cir. 1998
Bauchman v. West High School, 132 F.3d 542 (10th Cir. 1997)
Tanford v. Brand, 104 F.3d 982 (7th Cir. 1997)
Chaudhuri v. State of Tennessee, 130 F.3d 232 (6th Cir. 1997)
ACLU v. Blackhorse Pike Regional Bd. of Directors, 84 F.3d 1471 (3rd Cir. 1996)
Guidry v. Broussard, 897 F.2d 181 (5th Cir. 1989)


Evolution & creation

Supreme Court
Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987)
Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968)

Freiler v. Tangipahoa Board of Education, 185 F.3d 337 (5th Cir. 1999)
Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School Dist., 37 F. 3rd 517 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1173 (1995)
Webster v. New Lenox School Dist. No. 122, 917 F.2d 1004 (7th Cir. 1990)
Daniel v. Waters, 515 F.2d 485 (6th Cir. 1975)
LeVake v. Independent School Dist. No. 656, 625 N.W.2d 502 (Minn. App. 2001), cert. denied, 122 S. Ct. 814 (2002)
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, (No. 04CV2688)(M.D. Pa.)(3/10/05)
McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F.Supp. 1255 (E.D. Ark. 1982)
Scopes v. State, 289 S.W. 363 (Tenn. 1927)
Selman v. Cobb County School District, (No. 1 02-CV-2325-CC)(N.D. Ga.)(1/13/05)

Beckwith, Francis. “Science and Religion Twenty Years after McLean v. Arkansas: Evolution, Public Education, and the New Challenge of Intelligent Design,” 26 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 456 (2003)

Greenawalt, Kent. “Establishing Religious Ideas: Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design.” 17 ND J.L. Ethics & Pub Pol’y 321 (2003).

Hanakahi, Wendy F. “Evolution-Creationism Debate: Evaluating the Constitutionality of Teaching Intelligent Design in Public School Classrooms,” 25 Hawaii L. Rev. 9 (2002).

Haynes, Charles C. “‘Teaching the controversy’ over evolution could be disastrous,” First Amendment Center Online, 10/27/02.

Haynes, Charles C. “Darwin under fire (again): intelligent design vs. evolution,” First Amendment Center Online, 12/05/04.

Haynes, Charles C. “In evolution debate, silent treatment won’t work,” First Amendment Center Online, 5/29/05.

Hudson, David L., Jr. “Science teacher relates role in landmark evolution case,” First Amendment Center Online, 5/23/05.

Jones, F. Arthur. “A Creative Solution?: Assessing the Constitutionality of a New Creation/Evolution Disclaimer,” 49 Loy. L. Rev. 519 (2003).

Moseley, T. Mark. “Intelligent Design: A Unique Perspective to the Origins Debate,” 15 Regent U.L Rev. 327 (2002).

Wallis, Claudia. “The Evolution Wars,” Time (8/15/05), p. 26-35.


School prayer

Supreme Court
Santa Fe v. Doe, 120 S.Ct. 2266 (2000)
Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992)
Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985)
Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1968)
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962)

Adler v. Duval, 250 F.3d 1330 (11th Cir., 2001) (cert denied, 2001)
Cole v. Oroville Union High School District, 228 F.3d 1092 (9th Cir., 10-2-2000)
Bown v. Gwinnett County School. Dist., 112 F.3d 1464 (11th Cir. 1997)

A Parent's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools

A Teacher's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools

Public Schools & Religious Communities

Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, from the U.S. Department of Education (updated guidelines originally issued by Clinton administration in 1999 with assistance from First Amendment Center)


Religious holidays

Tips for planning religious holidays in public schools

Before planning a religious holiday activity in a public school, ask the following questions:

  1. Is this activity designed in any way to either promote or inhibit religion?
  2. How does this activity serve the academic goals of the course, or the educational mission of the school?
  3. Will any student or parent be made to feel like an outsider, not a full member of the community, by this activity?
  4. If in December: Do we plan activities to teach about religious holidays at various times of the year or only in December?
  5. Are we prepared to teach about the religious meaning of this holiday in a way that enriches students’ understanding of history and cultures?

Resources for classroom teachers

Elementary-school teachers may wish to use books of children’s literature containing stories about the religious holidays and traditions of the world’s faiths.

Calendars of religious and ethnic holidays can be obtained from the following organizations:

National Conference for Community and Justice
71 5th Ave.
New York, NY 10003

Educational Extension Systems
P.O. Box 259
Clarks Summit, PA 18411


Student religious practices

C.H. v. Olivia, 226 F.3d 198 (2nd Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 533 U.S. 915 (2001)

Saxe v. State College Area School Dist., 240 F. 3d 200 (3rd Cir. 2001)

Mozert v. Hawkins County, 765 F2d 75 (6th Cir. 1985); later appellate decision at 827 F.2d 1058 (6th Cir. 1987) (cert. denied 484 U.S. 1066 (1988)

DeNooyer v. Livonia Public Schools, 799 F. Supp. 744 (E.D. Mich. 1992)

“Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,” by the U.S. Department of Education (issued Feb. 7, 2003)

Student Religious Practices with Chart Detailing Specific Religious Practices

A Parent's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools

A Teacher's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools

Public Schools & Religious Communities


Released time

Supreme Court
Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992)
Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972)
Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962)
Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952)
McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948)
Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947)
Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925)

Doe v. Shenandoah County School Board, 737 F.Supp. 913 (W.D. Va. 1990)
Lanner v. Wimmer, 662 F.2d 1349 (10th Cir. 1981)
Smith v. Smith, 523 F.2d 121 (4th Cir. 1975). The Supreme Court refused to rehear this case: 423 U.S. 1073 (1976)
Perry v. School District No. 81, 344 P.2d 1036 (Wa. 1959)
State ex rel. Dearle v. Frazier, 173 P. 35 (Wa. 1918)

Arizona O.A.G. 86-078 (1986)
Iowa O.A.G. 292 (1965)

Haynes, Charles C., and Thomas, Oliver, Finding Common Ground: A Guide to Religious Liberty in Public Schools (First Amendment Center: Nashville 2001)

Conkle, Daniel O., “Symposium: Religion and the Public Schools After Lee v. Weisman: Lemon Lives,” 43 Case W. Res. 865 (1993)
Paulsen, Michael Stokes, “Symposium: Religion and the Public Schools After Lee v. Weisman: Lemon Is Dead,” 43 Case W. Res. 795 (1993)
Quddos, Samina, “Accommodating Religion in Public Schools: Must, May or Never?” 6 J. Islamic L. & Culture 67 (Spring/Summer 2001)


Teaching about religion

Abington v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962)

Teaching About Religion in National and State Social Studies Standards
Curricular resource material in Finding Common Ground

Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum

Learning About World Religions in Public Schools

Teaching About Religion in Public Schools: Where Do We Go from Here?

A Teacher's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools

The Bible and Public Schools

Teaching About Religion in American Life: A First Amendment Guide

Religion in American History: What to Teach and How

10 suggestions for teaching about religion

By Warren Nord, director, Program in Humanities and Human Values, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

  1. Religion is important; a central purpose of liberal education is to teach students about the place of religion in history and culture. The religious significance of curricular material (historical events and themes, literary texts, etc.) is an important criterion to use in selecting what is to be covered.
  2. Many events, movements, and texts are open to conflicting interpretations (both secular and religious). Teachers should be sensitive to religious ways of understanding them.
  3. The First Amendment requires that teachers be neutral regarding religion and religious ways of understanding the world; they are neither to promote nor denigrate religion.
  4. I would argue that the spirit of the First Amendment also requires that teachers be fair in their treatment of religion. Indeed, we are morally and intellectually obligated to be fair in dealing with any important, controversial matter. In an ideal world this means:

    1. Taking each of the (major) parties to the conflict seriously.
    2. Letting each party speak for itself through primary source material or guest speakers.
    3. Providing sufficient time and context so that positions are intelligible.
    4. Pursuing emotional as well as intellectual meaning (through literature, drama, art, film, etc.).
    5. Fairness does not require equal time.

  5. There should be no official conclusions. (This does not mean that a teacher should not share her own views.) Students should not be required to agree with the teacher in class or on tests. It is often best to ask not what students think, but what various religious groups think: Why do liberals believe that the Bible is not inerrant? Why do fundamentalists believe that abortion is wrong?
  6. That there are no official conclusions does not mean that there are no right answers. Neither fairness nor the First Amendment require us to embrace relativism. Education is an initiation of an ongoing discussion about the truth.
  7. Particular sensitivity must be shown to children who come from minority faiths, ethnic backgrounds, etc.
  8. Age is important; critical thinking and the ability to confront ambiguity and cultural conflict come with maturity.
  9. If matters are very controversial, parents should be informed and teachers should consider instituting an excusal policy.
  10. Some things may be too controversial.


Pledge of Allegiance & religious liberty in public schools

Supreme Court
Elk Grove Unified School Dist. v. Newdow (2004)
Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000)
Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992)
Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985)
Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984)
Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962)
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)
Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586 (1940)

Myers v. Loudon County Public Schools, 418 F.3d 395 (4th Cir. 2005)

Newdow v. Congress, 383 F.Supp. 2d 1229 (E.D. Cal. 2005)

Circle School v. Pappert, 381 F.3d 172 (3rd Cir. 2004)

Newdow v. U.S. Congress, 292 F.3d 597 (9th Cir. 2002) and later rulings under Case No. 00-16423, D.C. No. CV-00-00495-MLS/PAN (9th Cir. Dec. 4, 2002, Feb. 28, 2003, and March 5, 2003)

Sherman v. Community Consolidated School District, 980 F.2d 437 (7th Cir. 1992)

Aronow v. United States, 432 F.2d 242 (9th Cir. 1970

Hamilton, Marci, “The Ongoing Fight for Religious Dominance: From the Secret Service Agent's Slur, to Critiques of the Ninth Circuit's Pledge of Allegiance Decision” (Aug. 1, 2002)
Lazarus, Edward, “In Defense of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: Though the Ninth Circuit Is Frequently Reversed by the Supreme Court, that Does Not Mean It Is Frequently ‘Wrong’” (July 11, 2002)
Wolff, Tobias Barrington, “What the Recent Pledge of Allegiance Decision Really Means” (July 2, 2002)

Liberty magazine, November/December 2002, has multiple editorials exploring aspects of the Pledge controversy: “Under God Freedom,” by C. Welton Gaddy; “The Right Call,” by Barry W. Lynn; and “Is God an American Institution?” by John W. Whitehead.

History and text of the Pledge of Allegiance

Pledge of Allegiance statutes, state by state

(See also cases & resources for “Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.”)


Religious clubs

Supreme Court
Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001)
Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches School District, 508 U.S. 384 (1993)
Westside Community Schools v. Mergens 496 U.S. 226 (1990)

Good News Club v. School Dist. of Ladue, 28 F.3d 1501 (8th Cir. 1994)

Text of the Equal Access Act (20 U.S.C. Sections 4071-74)

Denial of Equal Access Prohibited Sec. 4071.
(a) It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal
financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access
or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to
conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious,
political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.
(b) A public secondary school has a limited open forum whenever such school
grants an offering to or opportunity for one or more noncurriculum-related
student groups to meet on school premises during noninstructional time.
© Schools shall be deemed to offer a fair opportunity to students who wish to
conduct a meeting within its limited open forum if such school uniformly provides that —
(1) the meeting is voluntary and student-initiated;
(2) there is no sponsorship of the meeting by the school, the government, or its agents or
(3) employees or agents of the school or government are present at religious meetings only in
a nonparticipatory capacity;
(4) the meeting does not materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of
educational activities within the school; and
(5) nonschool persons may not direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend
activities of student groups.
(d) Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to authorize the United States or any State or
political subdivision thereof —
(1) to influence the form or content of any prayer or other religious activity;
(2) to require any person to participate in prayer or other religious activity;
(3) to expend public funds beyond the incidental cost of providing the space for
student-initiated meetings;
(4) to compel any school agent or employee to attend a school meeting if the
content of the speech at the meeting is contrary to the beliefs of the agent
or employee;
(5) to sanction meetings that are otherwise unlawful;
(6) to limit the rights of groups of students which are not of a specified numerical
size; or
(7) to abridge the constitutional rights of any person.
(e) Notwithstanding the availability of any other remedy under the Constitution or the laws of
the United States, nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to authorize the United
States to deny or withhold Federal financial assistance to any school.
(f) Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to limit the authority of the school, its agents
or employees, to maintain order and discipline on school premises, to protect the well-being of
students and faculty, and to assure that attendance of students at meetings is voluntary. Definitions Sec. 4072. As used in this subchapter —
(1) The term "secondary school" means a public school which provides secondary education as determined
by State law. (2) The term "sponsorship" includes the act of promoting, leading, or participating in a meeting. The
assignment of a teacher, administrator, or other school employee to a meeting for custodial purposes
does not constitute sponsorship of the meeting.
(3) The term "meeting" includes those activities of student groups which are permitted under a school's
limited open forum and are not directly related to the school curriculum.
(4) The term "noninstructional time" means time set aside by the school before actual classroom instruction
begins or after actual classroom instruction ends.
Severability Sec. 4073.
If any provision of this subchapter or the application thereof to any person or circumstances is judicially
determined to be invalid, the provisions of the remainder of the subchapter and the application to other
persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.
Construction Sec. 4074.
The provisions of this subchapter shall supersede all other provisions of Federal law that are inconsistent
with the provisions of this subchapter.

Public schools & religious communities

Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952)

Public Schools & Religious Communities


Teachers' religious liberties

Supreme Court
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969)

Downing v. West Haven Board of Education, 162 F.Supp. 2d 19 (Dist. Conn. 2001)
Marchi v. Board of Cooperative Educational Services of Albany, 173 F.3d 469 (2nd Cir. 1999)
Helland v. South Bend Community School Corp., 93 F.3d 327 (7th Cir. 1996)
Roberts v. Madigan, 921 F.2d 1047 (10th Cir. 1990)
U.S. v. Board of Education, 911 F.2d 882 (3rd Cir. 1990)
Cooper v. Eugene School District, 723 P.2d 298 (Ore. 1986)
Breen v. Runkel, 614 F.Supp. 355 (W.D. Mich. 1985)
Fink v. Board of Education, 442 A.2d 837 (Pa. Cmmwlth. 1982)

A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools


Bible in school

Supreme Court
Westside Community Schools v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990)
Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962)
McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948)

Gibson v. Lee County School Board, 1 F. Supp.2d 1426 (M.D. Fla. 1998)
Chandler v. James, 985 F. Supp. 1062 (M.D. Ala. 1997)
Herdahl v. Pontotoc County School District, 933 F. Supp. 582 (N.D. Miss. 1996)
Settle v. Dickson County School Bd., 53 F.3d 152 (6th Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 989 (1995)
Doe v. Human, 725 F. Supp. 1503 (W.D. Ark. 1989), aff’d without opinion, 923 F.2d 857 (8th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 922 (1991)
Crockett v. Sorenson, 568 F. Supp. 1422 (W.D. Va. 1983)
Hall v. Board of Commissioners of Conecuh County, 656 F.2d 999 (5th Cir. 1981)
Wiley v. Franklin, 468 F. Supp. 133 (E.D. Tenn. 1979), supp. op., 474 F. Supp. 525 (E.D. Tenn. 1979), supp. op., 497 F. Supp. 390 (E.D. Tenn. 1980)
Malnak v. Yogi, 592 F.2d 197 (3d Cir. 1979)
Vaughn v. Reed, 313 F. Supp. 431 (W.D. Va. 1970)

The Bible and Public Schools

“Religious Liberty, Public Education, and the Future of American Democracy,” a statement of principles sponsored by 24 religious and educational organizations

“Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law.” Copies available from American Jewish Congress, 15 E. 84th St., Suite 501, New York, NY 10028

“Religious Expression in Public Schools,” directive issued by the U.S. Department of Education (call 877/433-7827 for a copy)

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Last system update: Thursday, November 13, 2008 | 21:09:58

religious liberty in public schools issues >
School prayer
Religious holidays
Student religious practices
Released time
Teaching about religion
Pledge of Allegiance & religious liberty in public schools
Religious clubs
Public schools & religious communities
Teachers' religious liberties
Bible in school
Distributing religious literature
Graduation ceremonies
Evolution & creation