Significant Supreme Court Rulings
Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925)
Guaranteed parents the right to enroll their children in
private schools, whether religious or secular.
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette
Upheld right of students who were Jehovah’s Witnesses
to refuse to salute the American flag, affirming right of
students to resist compulsory recitation of official
McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)
Prohibited use of public schools for voluntary,
privately funded religious classes as violation of the
Zorach v. Clauson (1952)
Allowed public schools to excuse students to attend
religious classes away from school property.
Engel v. Vitale (1962)
Prohibited recitation of a school-sponsored, nonsectarian
prayer as violation of Establishment Clause ban
on government creating and sponsoring a religious
Abington School District v. Schempp (1963)
In prohibiting a program of daily Bible reading in public
schools, ruled that government action must have a
predominantly secular purpose.
Epperson v. Arkansas (1968)
Overturned statute prohibiting the teaching of evolution,
on basis that government sought to ban material
objectionable to a particular religion.
Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969)
Upholding students’ right to wear armbands protesting
the Vietnam War, ruled that school authorities cannot
suppress expression unless it causes material disruption
or violates the rights of others.
Wisconsin v.Yoder (1972)
In case involving Old Order Amish, ruled that the Free
Exercise Clause limited the state’s power to require
children to attend school.
Widmar v. Vincent (1981)
Ruled that a state university could not exclude a student
group from using school buildings on the basis of
the group’s religious viewpoint.
Edwards v. Aguillard (1987)
Overturned statute requiring teaching of both evolution
and creationism, concluding that the law impermissibly
promoted a particular religious belief.
Board of Education v. Mergens (1990)
Upholding the Equal Access Act, ruled that high
schools, like universities, had an obligation to provide
equal access to public facilities to all groups, including
Lee v.Weisman (1992)
Prohibited school-sponsored prayer delivered by invited
clergy at a school commencement, on the grounds
that graduating students were being forced to participate
in a religious ceremony.
Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995)
Ruled that the Free Speech Clause required the state
university to provide the same financial subsidy for a
student Christian publication as for all other publications.
Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000)
Ruled that public schools may not sponsor studentrecited
prayer at athletic contests or other school events.
Good News Club v. Milford Central School District
Held that the Free Speech Clause prohibited an elementary
school from excluding an evangelical Christian
program from a list of approved after-school activities.
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