Pastor, Church & Law

Significant First Amendment Issues

Chapter 13

Can people engage in religious “witnessing” or proselytizing in residential neighborhoods on a door-to-door basis? Can they use public parks for religious meetings? Under what circumstances can voluntary prayers be uttered on public property? Can a city display a cross or nativity scene on public property during the Christmas season? Can a court display a picture of the Ten Commandments? Can the federal government constitutionally print the national motto “In God We Trust” on all of our nation’s currency? Can a public school rent its facilities to a church for religious purposes when the school is not in session? Do Sunday closing laws impermissibly discriminate against religious groups that recognize a Sabbath on another day of the week? Does an adult have the right to refuse medical treatment on the basis of religious beliefs? Can the state compel a sick or an injured child to receive medical treatment against the religious beliefs of his parents? What activities are included within the term “religious”? What activities are excluded?

Such questions present the courts with difficult choices. In this chapter, you will learn how the courts have responded to these questions.

Previous chapters have addressed the application of the First Amendment religion clauses to several issues. Examples include the dismissal of clergy, malpractice, church securities, child abuse reporting, church audits, discipline of church members, judicial review of internal church decisions, church property disputes, the application of various labor and discrimination laws to churches, zoning law, government regulation of church-operated schools, and church tax exemptions. This chapter will review the application of the First Amendment religion clauses in several other contexts.

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