Wallace V Jaffree

The thrilling court case involving maximum action


Wallace V Jaffree was a decision over Alabama's law regarding silent prayer. The law states that schools should have one minute for voluntary prayer or meditation every morning. So in all Alabama schools the teacher would stop class and everyone would have to be silent and pray.


Ishmael Jaffree was a citizen of Mobile County, Alabama. Whose kids were tormented by other students for refusing to pray during the one minute of voluntary silent prayer. This angered Jaffree. Especially after he found out that his kids were being indoctrinated by their teacher. He complained several times unsuccessfully until the court system finally looked at the problem on December 4, 1984. It was not decided until June 4, 1985.

Wallace was the Governor of Alabama at the time who made the law.


On June 4, 1985 the court ruled 6-3 in favor of Jaffree. Stating that the Alabama law went against the First Amendment. The law was removed and the teacher was no longer able to have the class pray every morning.


Though it seemed constitutional, three of the judges voted against the ruling. One of the judges Chief Justice Burger. Said that he thought the court decided incorrectly, and that because it only says prayer it is not promoting a religion. It is only promoting prayer and meditation. This is the main point of the opposition of the court ruling. That it does not promote one single religion and thus was not in direct violation to the first amendment. The main point of those for the ruling is that it did not pass the lemon test and went directly against the establishment clause. The government has to be secular and can not be involved in religion. The lemon test is a test to see if a law can effect the establishment of a religion.

Lemon Test

The Lemon Test is a test to decide if a law enforces the establishment of a religion. It was a three part test part one states that government action must have a secular purpose. Part two says Government must not have any effect on advancing the establishment of a religion. Part Three states that government action must not result in "excessive entanglement" with religion. If any of these steps are violated the law in question is considered in violation of the First Amendment. This test was made by Chief Justice Burger and ironically enough Burger voted to keep the law even though it failed his test.