Government funding of religious schools or religious social service providers

The government provides grants or other aid to religious educational institutions or “faith-based” social service providers. Such funding is particularly constitutionally troublesome if:

  • government aid is actually used for religious instruction or activity; or
  • direct cash aid is given to a pervasively religious institution or program; or
  • the aid recipient discriminates in employment based on religion with respect to publicly-funded positions; or
  • the aid recipient coerces service recipients to submit to religious proselytization or take part in religious worship; or
  • only religious organizations are eligible for funding under the aid program.

Religious activity in the public schools

The government promotes or sponsors prayer or other religious activity in the public schools. Examples include:

  • prayer at school-sponsored events such as graduations, assemblies, and football games;
  • prayer at the beginning of the school day;
  • religious presentations by teachers or outside groups during the school day;
  • distribution of the Bible or other religious literature in school;
  • Bible-study courses;
  • teaching of creationism in science classes.

Religious displays on government property

The government displays a religious text or symbol, such as the Ten Commandments, a cross, or a creche, on public property. Such displays are particularly egregious violations of the Constitution if the religious text or symbol is not accompanied by any non-religious texts or symbols.

Other violations

Some other constitutional violations include:

  • "prayer breakfasts" endorsed by government officials and/or financed with government funds;
  • formal proclamations by government officials exhorting citizens to pray;
  • explicitly sectarian prayers at the openings of meetings of government bodies;
  • government funding of religious hospitals that refuse to provide certain kinds of reproductive health care services for religious reasons;
  • statutory exemptions that allow religious organizations to discriminate in employment based on criteria other than religion with respect to non-religious positions;
  • tax exemptions for religious organizations that are not also applicable to secular non-profit organizations;
  • government refusals to give persons religious exemptions from government regulations in cases where the government provides non-religious exemptions from the same regulations.

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