The EngelCase from a Swiss Perspective

On June 25, 1962, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the State of New York, by using its public school system to encourage recitation of a prayer during classroom hours, had adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with that clause of the first amendment, applicable to the states by virtue of the fourteenth amendment, which prohibits laws respecting an establishment of religion. The opinion of the Court, written by Mr. Justice Black for himself and four other Justices, is interesting in that he rests the Court’s decision exclusively upon the establishment clause. In previous decisions, the Court had not stated clearly that state action in contravention of this provision of the first amendment would fall under its ban even though religious freedom might be unimpaired. The present Court has now made this point clear beyond doubt.