Democracy & Religious Freedom
2005 Winter Quarter


Winter 2005
Faculty: José Gómez, J.D.
Enrollment: 25
Prerequisites: Sophomore standing, transfer students welcome
Faculty Signature: No
Special Expenses: No
Internship Possibilities: No
Travel Component: No

The framers of the U.S. Constitution sought to ensure that the federal government neither promote religion nor interfere with religious liberty. The very first two clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution capture the framers' concern: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. " On parchment, those 16 words seem simple enough. In practice, however, the two clauses often are in tension and give rise to enduring controversy over the meaning of "establishment" and "free exercise". For example, if the government exempts church property from taxation, is it assisting the establishment of religion? If the government does not exempt church property from taxation, is it interfering in the free exercise of religion?

In the United States, controversies about what the religion clauses prohibit or protect intensified in the 1940's, when the United States Supreme Court first recognized that the First Amendment applied to the states, not just the federal government. The disputes have arisen over such disagreements as what "religion" means, whether the First Amendment only prohibits the government from preferring one religion over another but permits it to aid all religion if it does so nonpreferentially, whether the government may prohibit certain religious practices, whether government must accommodate religious beliefs, whether governmental measures taken to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community may override religious beliefs, whether some or all types of prayer or religious instruction are impermissible in the public schools, whether the government may use tax money to transport parochial school children, to buy their textbooks, to subsidize their teachers' salaries or to reimburse noninstructional health services provided by their religious schools.

We will use the case method to study every major court opinion that implicates the First Amendment's religion clauses. This intensive study necessarily focuses on the last 60 years, since it was not until the 1940 case of Cantwell v. Connecticut that the Supreme Court began to protect religious rights under the First Amendment.

In addition to court opinions, reading for the program will include Internet resources and various books and journal articles that explore the history and theory of religious liberty as a constitutional right. Working in legal teams, students will develop appellate briefs on real freedom of religion cases decided recently by the U.S. Court of Appeals and will present oral arguments before the "Evergreen Supreme Court." Students will also rotate as justices to read their peers’ appellate briefs, hear arguments and render decisions.

Credit awarded in First Amendment Law: Freedom of Religion, critical legal reasoning, legal research and writing, and oral advocacy.

Total:16 quarter hours

Program is preparatory for careers and future study in social science, constitutional law, education, public policy, political theory, history, and political science.

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