This course will focus on both the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment. It will discuss the impact of various models of constitutional interpretation, explore the historical and theoretical underpinnings of the “religion clauses,” and consider the proper role of religion in a pluralistic, secular society. The course also will look at many contemporary First Amendment issues. These include, in the context of the Establishment Clause, such topics as religion in public education (e.g., school prayer, creationism), public use of religious symbols and financial support of religion. With regard to the Free Exercise clause, these issues include government regulation of religious practices, the contours of permissible religious expression and government-mandated accommodation of religion in both the educational and employment contexts.
The class will be taught in a seminar format, and lively discussion is both expected and encouraged.