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An Establishment of Religion - Conversation Starters

One of the most contentious aspects of the role of the law in American life involves interpretation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Most scholars agree that the founders intended to prevent the establishment of a national church, it was also intended to protect religious toleration and by 1833, the states had similar provisions in their constitutions. The extent to which the U.S. should be accommodating of religious practices in the public "square" and the extent to which a wall of separation should exist between the "secular" state and religion continues to evolve. And the Courts have far from banished religion from politics, the workplace, and the schools.

What is the role of a secular state in a religious society? Are we as Americans committed to the foundation of tolerance that underpins the establishment clause? To what extent should religion play a role in politics, the workplace, and the schools? These are some of the questions raised by the discussion starters under the topic of "establishment of religion."

Starter 1: Letter from Thomas Jefferson

Starter 2: Dissent in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris

Starter 3: Wall Between Church and State