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Similar Cases - Engel v. Vitale

The following cases are related to Engel v. Vitale and focus on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947)
Providing bus rides to parochial school students is constitutional.
The School Board of Iwing Township allowed its buses to transport children to a Catholic school. The Supreme Court rejected an Establishment Clause challenge to this practice, and held that the School Board was merely providing a financial benefit to the children and their parents, and was in no way promoting religious beliefs that are associated with the parochial school.

Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963) 
School-sponsored Bible reading before class is unconstitutional. 
A Pennsylvania law required that each school day open with the Pledge of Allegiance and a reading from the Bible. The law permitted students to absent themselves from this activity if they found it objectionable. Citing Engel, the Court held that school-sponsored Bible reading constituted government endorsement of a particular religion, and thus violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Westside Community Schools v. Mergers, 496 U.S. 226 (1990)
Public schools may not prohibit student religious groups from meeting on school grounds after hours.
Westside School District prevented a student religious club from meeting on its property after hours, citing First Amendment concerns. The club argued that the school's action violated their Free Exercise rights and the federal Equal Access Act. The Equal Access Act was passed by Congress to ensure that any school receiving federal funds could not prevent religious and other groups from using school property after hours. The Supreme Court upheld the Equal Access Act against an Establishment Clause challenge, saying that "neutrality" and no "hostility" to religion is all that is required by the First Amendment.

Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000)
Students may not use a school's loudspeaker system to offer student-led, student-initiated prayer.
Before football games, members of the student body of a Texas high school elected one of their classmates to address the players and spectators. These addresses were conducted over the school's loudspeakers and usually involved a prayer. Attendance at these events was voluntary. Three students sued the school arguing that the prayers violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. A majority of the Court rejected the school's argument that since the prayer was student initiated and student led, as opposed to officially sponsored by the school, it did not violate the First Amendment. The Court held that this action was school-sponsored prayer because the loudspeakers that the students used for their invocations were owned by the school.

Zelma v. Simmons Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002)
Certain school voucher programs are constitutional.
The Ohio Pilot Scholarship Program allowed certain Ohio families to receive tuition aid from the state. This would help offset the cost of tuition at private, including parochial (religiously affiliated) schools. The Supreme Court rejected First Amendment challenges to the program and stated that such aid does not violate the Establishment Clause.

DISCLAIMER: These resources are created by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for educational purposes only. They may not reflect the current state of the law, and are not intended to provide legal advice, guidance on litigation, or commentary on any pending case or legislation.