© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Church and State
Teaching / Discussion and Essay Questions
Cite This Page
Discussion and Essay Questions Available to teachers only as part of the Teaching Church and StateTeacher Pass
Teaching Church and State Teacher Pass includes:
Assignments & Activities
Current Events & Pop Culture articles
Discussion & Essay Questions
Challenges & Opportunities
Related Readings in Literature & History
Sample of Discussion and Essay Questions
Religion and the First Amendment What did the “freedom of religion” really mean to the Pilgrims? Why were they so hostile toward other religions?
Were they simply narrow minded and intolerant? Why did they believe that permitting other religions in their community threatened their efforts? Religion in Early America and Incorporation Doctrine Most colonies had an established church and “dissenting” sects were “tolerated.”
Think about these words: “dissenting” and “tolerated.” What do they imply? To what extent did the First Amendment affect the ability states to establish official churches? Why, do you suppose, the Constitution’s framers did not try to set a uniform national requirement on state religious practices? What two events brought regional religious practices before the Supreme Court?
What gave the federal government authority to intervene in Utah?
Should the federal government have intervened in Utah?
If yes, why? Why was this practice not protected by the First Amendment? If no, why not? Where should the line be drawn be protected and unprotected religious practice? What exactly is the doctrine of incorporation? Why is it essential to the contemporary importance of the Bill of Rights?
Without the Fourteenth Amendment, what sorts of things would the states be allowed to do? Free Exercise Clause Is the distinction between religious belief and religious conduct established in Reynolds legitimate?
What good is the right to believe something if you are not allowed to act upon those beliefs? Is this an empty guarantee or a distinction necessary to preserve order? Did the Court stake out a more appropriate position in later cases like Yoder?
Should religiously-based practices be more protected than non-religiously based practices? Is this fair to non-believers?
Should a pacifist who refuses to serve in the military be granted more consideration or protection than a person whose pacifism is based on non-religious moral values? Should religiously-based drug use be protected while recreational or “self-exploratory” use is not? Establishment Clause and the Lemon Test Have the courts properly drawn the line between appropriate and inappropriate aid to religious schools? Do the Child Benefit Theory and Lemon Test make sense? According to the courts, which of these forms of public aid are acceptable?
Secular textbooks religious textbooks secular subject teacher salaries School maintenance bus rides speech and psychological services Computers lab equipment emergency fire department services Do you agree with the courts on all of these? Where would you draw the line? School Prayer Should prayer be allowed in school?
What about non-denominational prayers? Or prayers to an unnamed deity? What if the students vote to hold a prayer? What about prayer clubs during lunch or after school in a classroom? What if the students paid a use-fee for the room? Are prayer clubs any different than political clubs? School Vouchers What has the Court said about vouchers?
Do voucher programs pass the Child Benefit or Lemon tests? Do you agree with the decision in Zelmon?
Could public money be paid directly to religious schools? What is the difference in this case?
Is this a valid distinction? Creationism and Intelligent Design Should Intelligent Design be taught alongside Darwinian science?
Should teachers be allowed to teach it as a separate subject? Do prohibitions against the teaching of Intelligent Design violate teachers’ rights of speech? Would the rights of non-religious students and teachers be violated by the teaching of Intelligent Design? Are the religious rights of parents and students violated by the “one-sided” teaching of Darwinian science? Is this a free exercise or establishment clause issue? Future of Religious Freedom Should public money be used to fund “faith-based” initiatives?
What if these are proven effective in battling social problems such as substance abuse? Does public funding to these initiatives set a dangerous precedent and open a hard-to-close door? Would denying these initiatives funding be foolish given their success in treating serious social problems?