Wallace V. Jaffree

By Kamie Chester

The Atmosphere of 1985

  • Crack Cocaine starts to appear
  • The Nintendo home entertainment system is introduced to the U.S.
  • Rock 'n' Roll Hall of fame is opened
  • Lead gas is officially banned in the U.S.
  • "Back to the Future" and "Breakfast Club" hits the theaters
  • FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) develops a test for screening blood for AIDS
  • U.S. President Ronald Reagan is sworn in for his second term as President

Law Making in Alabama

  • 1978: Alabama lawmakers issued a law that stated that at the beginning of every school day the students should take part in a period of silence for "meditation".
  • 1981: A second law was passed in Alabama stating that there should be a period of silence for "meditation and voluntary prayer" at the beginning of each school day.
  • 1982: Alabama lawmakers authorized teachers to lead "willing students" in a prayer, written by that state, that would be directed to the "Almighty God, the Creator and Supreme Judge of the World".
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And So It Begins...

  • May of 1982: Ishmael Jaffree filled a complaint to the Mobile County school system on behalf of his three children who were being discriminated against for not joining in the "voluntary prayers".
  • Jaffree continued to take his complainants to different school officials for months after the original complaint.
  • After months of complaints, Jaffree finally got to go before a federal district court and plea his case and speak of the three Alabama laws that he felt were unconstitutional.
  • Federal District Court: State Senator Donald G. Holmes admitted that the laws were meant to to return voluntary prayers to Alabama schools and Governor George Wallace stayed strong in his support for keeping prayers and the Bible in schools... Even so the court ruled all three laws constitutional (1978, 1981, 1982)
  • Court of Appeals: They said the 1978 law was constitutional, but the other two laws were in violation of the first amendment, sending the case to the U.S. Supreme Court
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The First Amendment

Word For Word:

  • "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."


Establishment Clause:

  • part of the first amendment
  • prohibits the government from creating any laws that will "respect an establishment of religion"
  • Ex: no official religion, cannot favor one religion over another, cannot favor religion over non-religion or vise versa
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Wallace V. Jaffree Supreme Court Case of 1985

  • June 4th, 1985
  • Supreme Justices: Burger, Brennan, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, Rehnquist, Stevens, O' Connor (9) (Those are last names)
  • 6-3 Vote: Majority Opinion by John Paul Stevens
  • The Lemon Test: "the purpose of the Lemon Test is to determine if a law has the effect of establishing religion" (created by Chief Justice Warren Burger)
  • The Ruling: The Supreme Court said that the Alabama laws from 1981 and 1982 violated the first amendment, the Establishment Clause, and failed the Lemon Test because both laws endorsed religion and caused schools to no longer be neutral on the topic of religion. Both laws were forced to be removed. However, the 1978 Alabama law remained intact. In other words, Jaffree wins!
  • The Bigger Issue: Religious discrimination
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And Now A Video

  • Watch 4:34-6:03
  • The first half of the video tells more details about the first amendment and the Lemon Test if anyone is interested.
Freedom of Religion: Crash Course Government and Politics #24