Summary of Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952)
Facts: NY program allowing public schools to release student early so they can receive religious instruction at religious schools elsewhere. Students must have written parental authorization. Churches are required to provide a weekly attendance list of students. The release time does not involve religious instruction nor public funding.
Issue(s): Whether NY release program constitutes a law that establishes religion in violation of the 1st Amendment?
Holding: No, where a public school “release time" program does no more than accommodate a student option to attend outside religious instruction, it does not involve the free exercise of religion, nor does it a law respecting the establishment of religion.
Procedure: Appellants are Txprs and parents. NY Ct of App upheld law as Const’l; U.S.S.Ct Affirmed.
Rule(s): 1st Amend prohibits Govt from establishing religion or barring its free exercise.
Rationale: This is not McCollum b/c there during release time a religious leader provided religious instruction. Furthermore, this law does not involve the free exercise of religion b/c it involves neither compelled attendance at religious schools nor is religious instruction brought into the public school classroom. Students are left the discretion whether to participate or not.
Coercion: There is no evid to support a coercion claim, but there is evid that school authorities are neutral as to whether a student attends a religious classroom during release time.
First Amend provides an absolute bar, but it does not say that each and every case must require a separation between Church and State. In America all have the freedom to worship as one chooses. Govt cannot show partiality to any one group. But when Govt encourages religious instruction or cooperates w/ religious authorities by adjusting school schedules for sectarian needs, Govt is showing respect for separation of Church and State.
Govt is not required to show a callous indifference to religious groups b/c that would show a preference to non-believers over believers. The First Amend does not require hostility toward religion.
DISSENT: This NY Law manipulates its mandatory education laws to assist religious bodies to get pupils, it is a combination of Church and State.
Pl A: By the influence of the school put behind the release program so students can attend religious instruction, the program constitutes Govt establishment of religion: public teachers police the program–keeping tabs on students; classroom activities stop while released students are away; and w/o school support the program would be ineffective.