Anyone who has a cursory understanding of America’s laws regarding church/state separation should be familiar with certain landmark Supreme Court cases. Cases like Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp and Lemon v. Kurtzman.
That last one in particular is important not necessarily for its immediate ruling (does anyone even remember what the case was about?) but for the legacy it left behind: The Lemon Test.
The Lemon Test said that there were three rules that legislators had to follow when it came to laws concerning religion:
- The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose;
- The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
- The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.
Break any of these rules and the whole law becomes unconstitutional. It’s a precedence that has been used for decades and its namesake was Alton Toussaint Lemon:
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