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Displaying Religion on Public Property

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Displaying religious object in public places has become a very controversial and highly publicized issue in America.  One of the main reasons for the controversy are the competing rights on either side.

What Are The Competing Sides?

The controversy over religion and public property comes from two competing government interests, both of which have equally valid and important interests:

The Freedom of Religion

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution contains the Freedom of Exercises Clause.  It has generally been held to give citizens of the United States the freedom to:

  1. Believe in any religion, and
  2. To act in connection to any religion.

The Separation of Church and State

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also contains the Establishment Clause.  It has generally been held to show that the government must not influence any religion, nor can it adopt a religious preference.

Quite often these two competing goals will come into conflict when a religious object is placed on or displayed at a public place.  Courts are called upon to make the difficult decision of deciding which side should prevail.  To make this decision, courts will generally look at multiple factors.

What Factors Will A Court Consider?

In deciding if a religious object should remain in place or be removed, a court will consider many factors.  Generally, a court will look at:

  • The religious significance of the object on display,
  • The size or visibility of the object on display,
  • The inclusion of other religious symbols in the display,
  • The historic background of the display, and
  • The proximity of the object on display to the public property.

Do I Need an Attorney to Handle my Religion and Public Property Issue?

If you think that a religious display on public property should be taken down, or you are trying to protect a religious display, it is recommended that you contact a Constitutional law attorney.  Only an attorney will be able to explain the relevant issues and help defend your rights.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 09-29-2011 11:18 AM PDT

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