Constitutional Law–Church and State–Freedom of Religion–The Constitutionality Under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment of Compulsory Sex Education in Public Schools

It has been said that “[s]ex education, once the domain of the church and the home, has by necessity, become a responsibility of the schools.” Indeed, by the operation of most state education statutes, sex education can be made compulsory in public primary and secondary schools if it is taught as part of otherwise compulsory classes or if the local school authorities have prescribed sex education courses as a compulsory part of the curriculum. While some of the state statutes authorize exemptions on religious grounds, most do not. Nevertheless, the introduction of sex education into public schools has not been accomplished without opposition. Certain religious groups have argued that compulsory sex education is violative of both the free exercise and establishment clauses of the first amendment, as applied to the states through the fourteenth amendment. This Recent Development will explore the substantive validity of those attacks.