Vanderbilt Law Review


Mary A. Myers

First Page



The very first line of the Bill of Rights provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." This line, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, was motivated by the history of religious persecution that drove thousands of adherents of minority faiths in Europe to the New World to seek refuge to practice their own faith, free from the compulsion of state-established religion. The Establishment Clause remains relevant today, and the U.S. Supreme Court has been active in hearing cases involving it. For purposes of determining standing-that is, whether an individual or organization meets certain constitutional and prudential requirements for bringing a cause of action-- problematic tensions exist between the theoretical underpinnings of the Establishment Clause and the Court's recent jurisprudence. For the plaintiff to have standing to bring a suit, she must have suffered an actual or threatened injury that is traceable to the alleged act of the defendant and that would be redressable by a favorable decision of the courts. In the Establishment Clause context, there are some easy cases where the litigant has standing. For example, in School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, the plaintiffs were students subject to a state law directing public school teachers to select daily Bible verses and lead the class in a recitation of the Lord's Prayer. Here, there is a clear injury that is individualized (that is, that the student cannot escape the religious environment created at the school), and the harm was redressable by an injunction."

Included in

Jurisprudence Commons