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Zorach v. Clauson

Citation. 22 Ill.343 U.S. 306, 72 S. Ct. 679, 96 L. Ed. 954 (1952)
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Petitioners, Zorach and other taxpayers and residents of New York City (Petitioners), brought suit challenging the constitutionality of a “released time” program, which allowed children to leave school, with parental permission, for religious instruction.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

This case stands for the proposition that the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution (Constitution) does not advocate hostility toward religion and mere acknowledgment of a religious program, without participation, is not unconstitutional.


The “released time” program allowed children, with parental permission, to be released from school for religious instruction. The instructions took place away from the school grounds and no school involvement was required, other than acknowledging the students’ participation. The Petitioners brought suit challenging the constitutionality of the program alleging that the prohibition against any laws respecting the establishment of any religion also prohibited this voluntary program. The Petitioners appealed from a judgment for the Respondents, Clauson and other member of the Board of Education of the City of New York (Respondents) and the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) granted writs.


The issue is simply whether New York, through its acceptance of the “released time” program, has engaged in the respect of an establishment of religion, within the meaning of the First Amendment of the Constitution.


The Supreme Court held for the Respondents, noting that because instruction occurred away from the schools and did not require school participation, no respect for a particular establishment had occurred.
Additionally, the Supreme Court held that a philosophy of hostility toward religion cannot be read into the Bill of Rights. Just because the First Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the making of a law which will respect the establishment of religion, it does not necessarily follow that the government should be hostile toward the exercise of religion, which would also be an abrogation of the Free Exercise Clause of the same amendment.


Justices Hugo Black (J. Black) and Robert Jackson (J. Jackson) wrote separate dissents, both standing for the proposition that the majority had blurred the line between the separation of church and state.


While the establishment clause prohibits governmental support of religion, it does not prohibit students from exercising their religions.

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