All Articles For Church and State

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Mr. Lanting, a member of Cornerstone Protestant Reformed Church of Schererville, Indiana, is a practicing attorney. “In the context of the Pledge of Allegiance, the statement that the United States is a nation ‘under God’ is an endorsement of religion. It is a profession of a religious belief, namely, a belief in monotheism. The recitation that ours is a nation ‘under God’ is not a mere acknowledgement that many Americans believe in a deity. Nor is it merely descriptive of the undeniable historical significance of religion in the founding of the Republic. To recite the Pledge is not to describe...

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Mr. Lanting, a member of Cornerstone Protestant Reformed Church of Dyer, Indiana, is a practicing attorney. “In sum, the Ohio voucher program is entirely neutral with respect to religion. It provides [tuition aid] directly to a wide spectrum of individuals…. It permits such individuals to exercise genuine choice among options public and private, secular and religious. The program is therefore a program of true private choice. In keeping with an unbroken line of decisions rejecting challenges to similar programs, we hold the program does not offend the Establishment Clause.” Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, U.S. Supreme Court (June 27, 2002) (majority opinion)...

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. Throughout the history of the United States, citizens have often referred to the “wall of separation between church and state.” The concept is usually referred to when questions arise either because of government limitation on the activity of churches, or when the institutions of the state include religious practices or symbols, such as the old controversy over prayer in public schools. In recent years, different individuals and groups have increasingly challenged the role of religion in public life, often challenging practices that have been...

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Mr. Lanting, a member of Cornerstone Protestant Reformed Church of Dyer, Indiana, is a practicing attorney. The Cleveland tuition voucher scheme involves the grant of state aid directly and predominantly to the coffers of the private, religious schools, and it is unquestioned that these institutions incorporate religious concepts, motives, and themes into all facets of their educational planning. … We hold that the Cleveland voucher program has the primary effect of advancing religion, and that it constitutes an endorsement of religion and sectarian education in violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Simmons-Harris v. Zelman, U.S. Court of Appeals,...

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. The cultural war around us continues to rage, especially on the issue of homosexual rights. We have just witnessed a national election in which these issues were brought to the forefront. Eleven states had measures on the ballot to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. Many political pundits commented on the “values voters” who turned out at the polls in large numbers due to concern over moral issues. An overview of recent developments and trends in the United States demonstrates...

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Mr. Lanting, a member of Cornerstone Protestant Reformed Church of Dyer, Indiana, is a practicing attorney. Under tort law principles, a person who consents to another’s conduct cannot bring a tort claim for the harm that follows from that conduct. This is because no wrong is done to one who consents. Because the plaintiff consented to the church’s practices, and his active engagement with the church indicated his continuing consent, the church’s actions disciplining the plaintiff were not unlawful. Smith v. Calvary Christian Church, Michigan Supreme Court (2000).May a disgruntled former member bring suit against his church which publicly announced...

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. In December of 2005, the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued its decision in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.¹ The case received national attention as one of the first challenges to the teaching of “Intelligent Design” as an alternative to the theory of Evolution. The district court’s opinion was not appealed, and therefore the decision is not binding precedent for other districts. However, the decision and the rationale behind it have already been relied on by others...

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. Reformed parents have always cherished the ability to train up their children in the covenant. In the United States, parents have always enjoyed broad control over the upbringing of their children. A recent decision by the Ninth Circuit, however, has ruled that parents do not have the exclusive right to determine what their children are taught. The case, Fields v. Palmdale School District,¹ involved the distribution of information of a sexual nature in the public school setting, but the case could have drastic implications for...

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Mr. Lanting, a member of Cornerstone Protestant Reformed Church of Dyer, Indiana, is a practicing attorney. In light of the school’s history of regular delivery of student-led prayers at athletic events, it is reasonable to infer that the specific purpose of the policy was to preserve a popular state-sponsored religious practice. The delivery of such a message—over the school’s public address system, by a speaker representing the student body, under the supervision of school faculty, and pursuant to a school policy that explicitly and implicitly encourages prayer—is not properly characterized as “private speech.” The common purpose of the Religion Clauses...

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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney. Although the issue of the separation of church and state has long been debated in American society, recent years have seen a noticeable increase in legal challenges to previously accepted practices. For instance, the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance has been under attack because of the inclusion of the phrase “under God,” although that phrase has been in the Pledge for over 50 years. Similarly, many public buildings and courthouses have displayed the Ten Commandments for decades, but in recent years groups such...

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