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July 12, 2022 RAPID RESPONSE

Is There Still a Separation of Church and State?

As the October 2021 term drew to a close, the United States Supreme Court delivered two momentous church-state decisions that upended long-standing understandings on the relationship of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, the so-called "Religion Clauses." These two cases, Carson v. Makin (mandating state funding of religious schools when nonpublic school tuition is funded) and Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (holding in favor of a public high school football coach's engaging in prayer at the 50-yard line following football games) raise crucial questions as to whether state actors have any leeway in determining where church-state lines are to be drawn, as well as regarding the meaning, and even continued viability, of concepts of constitutional analysis as "coercion" and "endorsement." Other cases during the just-completed term covered new ground in the relationship of free speech protections to the Religion Clauses, and the limits free exercise protections may place on prison administration. We hear from several experts on the implications of these cases, as well as look down the road to church-state cases that the Supreme Court will be considering in the term to come.


  • Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, Partner, Ropes & Gray LLP
  • William Haun, Senior Counsel, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
  • Heather L. Weaver, Senior Staff Attorney, Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Stephen J. Wermiel, Professor of Practice of Law, American University Washington College of Law; Co-Chair, Free Speech and Free Press Committee, ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice


  • Rahmah A. Abdulaleem, Executive Director, KARAMAH; Vice Chair, Religious Freedom Committee, ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice


Carson v. Makin Opinion

Kennedy v. Bremerton School District Opinion

Ramirez v. Collier Opinion

Shurtleff v. Boston Opinion

ACLU amicus brief in Carson

ACLU amicus brief in Kennedy

ACLU amicus brief in Ramirez

ACLU amicus brief in Shurtleff

Supreme Court overrules Lemon test, rules in favor of prayer for football coach | Becket Law

Supreme Court protects prayer in death chamber | Becket Law

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