Religion and the Constitution
This course surveys constitutional law and issues concerning religion in depth, focusing on the First Amendment’s “Free Exercise” and “Non-Establishment” Clauses, and examining current controversies and past precedents. Current topics include: “Intelligent Design” and other alternatives to teaching evolution in public schools; posting of Ten Commandments and other religious displays in courthouses and other public buildings/spaces; mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, with its “under God” language, in public schools; “faith-based funding” or “charitable choice” programs, under which government funds religious institutions that provide social services; government restrictions on religious beliefs and practices in various contexts, including zoning and prison regulations; striking appropriate balances between free exercise and non-establishment concerns, including in military academies and public schools; and protecting individuals who practice minority religions, including protecting Muslims in the context of the “War on Terror.”
The class format consists of student-led discussions under the professor’s guidance. All students will write several short papers in connection with class discussions. Half of the grade is based on these papers and oral contributions to the class sessions; students are expected to participate actively throughout all class discussions. The other half of the grade is based on either a final paper (about 15-20 double-spaced pages) or a two-hour exam, at the option of each student.
Pre/co-requisite: Introduction to Constitutional Law. Students who take this course are restricted from taking The First Amendment.