SECTION 8 Freedom of Religion

No law shall be enacted respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The convention adopted this paraphrase of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution by a 104-0 vote, deleting the 1921 Constitution’s provisions, which were more stringent and more precise in prohibiting use of state money for parochial schools. Three provisions of the former document had been relied upon in Seegers v. Parker (1970) to prohibit aid to teachers of secular subjects in church- operated schools. To reverse that decision and adopt instead the more flexible federal standard, which allows some aid to parochial schools, two of the provisions were deleted entirely,[1] and the language of this section was adopted in place of the third.

Free exercise of religion did not extend to protecting an elaborate outdoor Christmas display in a suburban residential area, a display that attracted thousands of spectators in vehicles, much to the dislike and inconvenience of neighbors (Rodrigue v. Copeland, 1985). The court upheld injunctions that the display be limited in size, time, and sound volume.

In State v. Morgan (1984), the probation of a criminal defendant was conditioned on his regularly attending an organized church of his choice. The court of appeal determined that such a condition violated both the state and federal prohibition of laws respecting an establishment of religion.

  • [1] Article IV, section 8: “No money . . . in aid of any church . . . or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof.” Article XII, section 13: “No appropriation of public funds shall be made to anyprivate or sectarian school.”
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