The First Amendment Establishment Clause states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” These famous words encrypted in the First Amendment of the Constitution triggered a two-folded guarantee of religious liberty. The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause both function to protect the freedom of conscience and religious liberty of all citizens. The Establishment Clause according to Thomas Jefferson was meant to fulfill this through the erection of a “wall of separation between Church and State (Levy, 2017).” Everson v. Board of Educ. of Ewing, 330 U.S. 1, 15-16 (1947) (Levy, 2017). Government equality on religion is gradually becoming more vital with the proliferation of different religious beliefs, and learning institutions are among the most vital places where this principle is measured.
In the presented case study on the case between the Gainesville School District and the families that sued the School District, I choose to represent the Sam and the School District. The Establishment Clause dictates that teachers, administrators, principals and other public school personnel may not promote a specific religion as superior to the other; promote religion as a superior phenomenon to a secular approach to life; be antagonistic to a particular religion or secularism; or behave in a manner that inhibits or advances religion (Levy 2017). These, however, does not mean that religion cannot be taught in public schools. According to Graham v. Stone case 449 U.S. 39, 42 (1980), the bible may be used in schools constitutionally in an appropriate studies (Levy, 2017). Besides, schools can teach on religion, explain the beliefs of different faiths, discuss religious function in history, science, literature and other endeavors, provided that it has a secular function to promote educational goals and there is no effort to inhibit or promote any religious belief.
In the case between Jane Doe v. Santa Fe Independent School District, the court ruled that the student-led prayer at a football game was unconstitutional because the act implied official endorsement of religion (Levy, 2017). However, in Sam’s case, he gave the team members a pep-talk just before the game and chanted a religious phrase that started with “Almighty God” to motivate the team to play their best, but the team and the head coach voluntarily responded to these chants by an “Amen.” Under the First Amendment’s establishment clause, and according to the United States Supreme court judgments, it is illegal for an individual to impose religious practices or prayers on fellow students (Levy, 2017). Sam never intended to pray with the team since he knew it was against the school laws. He simply chanted the words to motivate his mates. In addition, the first religion clause states that government agencies are prohibited from instilling or imposing beliefs in students. This rule prevents the government from favoring a particular religion over the other or setting up a national religion (Levy, 2017). North Hall high school had told all its students against praying to the public. Sam clearly declared that he had been told that he could not hold prayers together with the team since it was unconstitutional.
Besides, despite knowing that all of his team mates were Christians, he did not ask to imply to his motivation talk with Amen. Instead the team naturally responded to it since all of the members were Christian. The First Amendment’s free exercise clause dictates that public schools should not prohibit students from sharing their religious beliefs provided that such actions do not disrupt the school for example in the Thomas v. Review Board, 450 U.S. 707 (1981) case law (Levy, 2017). All the North Hall high school team members were Christians and by applauding Sam’s remarks with “Amen”, they did not intend to disturb the non-participating students. Although the parents overheard the pep-talk and the group chanting, none of it was intended to disrupt them.