Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Political Science

First Advisor

J. Kevin Corder

Second Advisor

Denise Keele


This study will look at United States Supreme Court Establishment Clause cases from 2001-2016. During those 16 years, the Court decided 1,276 cases. Only 10 of those cases dealt with the establishment clause.

At an absolute minimum, the Establishment Clause was intended to prohibit the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion, which existed in many other countries at the time of America's founding. This idea has become vital to the values Americans hold dear. Throughout history, religious freedom and tolerance have been celebrated, and most of that is due to the Establishment Clause. However, there is also no clear indication how we must view our religious rights or even how these decisions many influence future cases.

The analysis of these 10 Establishment Clause cases will be organized around three separate aspects that affected their outcomes: standing, purpose and effect, and the lemon test. Through these three lenses, you can see how religious rights have changed, and many questions as to the future of our religious rights have gone unanswered.

Have we lived up to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s ideal for "[a] wall of separation between church and state.” Or is true that government and religion are intertwined? Through this study we will explore what tests will or won’t be used in future case, discuses how standing is view in these cases, and wither the Supreme Court’s ruling a law's effect can promote or inhibit religion.

Americans have to be vigilant when it comes to religious cases. Despite the fact our founding fathers have put this ideal in place, through lawsuits we see better understand ongoing battle. Although some government action implicating religion is permissible, and indeed unavoidable, it is not clear just how much the Establishment Clause tolerates. We cannot eradicate religion in government, schools, or other public places. Most of us, Judges included, are religious, and we all have a right to practice and share our beliefs.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Thesis Presentation .pdf (355 kB)
Defense Presentation

Copy of Supreme Court Term Opinions (2001-2016).xlsx (135 kB)
Supreme Court Term Opinions 2001-2016