Zorach v. Clausen 343 U.S. 306 (1952)

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ZORACH v. CLAUSEN 343 U.S. 306 (1952)

This was the Supreme Court's second encounter with a released time program. In mccollum v. board of education (1948), the Court had invalidated an arrangement by which teachers entered public schools to provide religious instruction. Zorach involved New York City's released time program in which instruction was offered off school premises. According to the requests of their parents, public school children were allowed to leave school for specific periods of time to go to church facilities. Nonparticipating students remained in their regular classrooms.

Justice william o. douglas delivered the opinion of the court sustaining the constitutionality of New York's program. Douglas emphasized that, as opposed to McCollum, no public facilities were used. The schools, Douglas said, were merely rearranging their schedules to accommodate the needs of religious people.

Justices hugo l. black, robert h. jackson, and felix frankfurter dissented. Black and Jackson argued that children were compelled by law to attend public schools and that to release them for religious instruction used governmental compulsion to promote religion. In a slap at Douglas's presumed presidential ambitions, Jackson said, "Today's judgment will be more interesting to students of psychology and of the judicial process than to students of constitutional law."

Richard E. Morgan