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Religion and the Courts: The Pillars of Church-State Law

In an ongoing series of occasional reports, “Religion and the Courts: The Pillars of Church-State Law,” the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life explores the complex, fluid relationship between government and religion. Among the issues to be examined are religion in public schools, displays of religious symbols on public property, conflicts concerning the free exercise of religion, and government funding of faith-based organizations.


LEGAL REPORT March 2011 Churches in Court: The Legal Status of Religious Organizations in Civil Lawsuits Whenever churches or religious organizations find themselves involved in civil litigation, courts first must determine whether the First Amendment’s religion clauses bestow a unique legal status on religious organizations that puts some of their decisions and actions beyond the reach of civil laws.


LEGAL REPORT May 2009 Shifting Boundaries: The Establishment Clause and Government Funding of Religious Schools and Other Faith-Based Organizations The debate over government funding of religious institutions raises some thorny issues in the discussion about the appropriate relationship between church and state. Most legal scholars agree that the Constitution limits at least some government funding of religion but disagree sharply on exactly what is permissible.

LEGAL REPORT October 2008 A Fluid Boundary: The Free Exercise Clause and the Legislative and Executive Branches Courts have long grappled with questions of religious freedom, but other government bodies also help ensure protection of this cherished liberty.


LEGAL REPORT October 2007 A Delicate Balance: The Free Exercise Clause and the Supreme Court When Americans speak of their most cherished liberties, freedom of worship often tops the list. But this freedom is not absolute. Indeed, throughout most of the nation’s history, religious practices have often been subordinated to a variety of government laws and regulations.


LEGAL REPORT June 2007 Religious Displays and the Courts Each year as the winter holidays approach, Americans across the country debate the appropriateness of the government sponsoring, or even permitting, the display of Christmas nativity scenes, Hanukkah menorahs and other religious holiday symbols on public property.


LEGAL REPORT May 2007 Religion in the Public Schools Nearly a half-century after the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling striking down school-sponsored prayer, Americans continue to fight over the place of religion in public schools.

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