Bell Ringers
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By sunshinecavalluzzi
On December 16, 2018

Bell Ringer: The Establishment Clause

Santa Fe v Doe

Explanation of First Amendment Establishment Clause.


The First Amendment begins "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Referred to as the Establishment Clause, this provision of the Bill of Rights is sometimes discussed as creating a "wall of separation" between church and state. Issues such as the inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, beginning town meetings with invocations, prayers at public school graduations and football games, and the posting of the Ten Commandments in government buildings have all been raised over the years as Establishment Clause controversies. As opposed to the Free Exercise Clause, which concerns individual religious activity and government limitations thereof, Establishment Clause concerns pertain to government sponsorship, promotion, and/or endorsement of religious activity.

Bell Ringer Assignment

  • According to Joan Biskupic, who are Bill of Rights guarantees intended to protect? Why?
  • How does Biskupic differentiate between prayers that begin governmental meetings and prayers that begin school events?
  • What two landmark Supreme Court cases related to the Establishment Clause were referenced by Lee Lawrence? What were the facts of each case? What were the respective Supreme Court rulings?
  • AP Government- Questions to Consider: How are the facts and the ruling of Engel v. Vitale similar to and distinguishable from the facts and rulings of Tinker v. Des Moines? What historical context would likely have influenced the Framers' inclusion of the Establishment Clause in the Bill of Rights? Given your knowledge of American demographics and politics, how might Establishment Clause controversies vary across the country?

Additional Resources



    • 1st Amendment
    • Abington V. Schempp
    • Bill Of Rights
    • Civil Liberties
    • Constitution
    • Engel V. Vitale
    • Establishment Clause
    • Supreme Court


    AP U.S. Government Key TermsCivil Rights & Civil LibertiesConstitutional FoundationSupreme Court Cases


    Middle SchoolHigh School