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Zorach v. Clauson

    Brief Fact Summary. A New York City program, which allows children to leave the public school building during the school day and go to religious centers for religious instruction, which involves no religious instruction inside the public school and is of no cost to the public schools, was found by the Supreme Court of the United States (Constitution) to be constitutional.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions. For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs.

    Facts. New York City has a program, which permits its public school children to leave the school buildings to go to religious centers for religious instruction. The churches make weekly reports to the schools of students who go to such instructions. The “released time” program involves neither religious instruction inside the public school and is of no cost to the public schools. The highest state court sustained the law.

    Issue. Whether the New York “released time” program violates the constitution?

    Held. No. Judgment of the highest state court affirmed. No one is forced to go to the religious classroom and no religious exercise or instruction is brought to the classrooms of the public schools. When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions. For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs. Thus this “released time” program does not effect nor violate the establishment of religion.

    Dissent. New York is manipulating its compulsory education laws to help religious sects get pupils. Therefore, it violates separation of church and state.
    This “released time” program is founded upon a use of the state’s power of coercion which is unconstitutional.

    Discussion. This case shows that even where there is an intertwining of church and state interests, as long as they are well-defined, such interests may coexist.


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