The First Amendment and Equal Protecting

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The first amendment states that Congress shall make no “law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (Lemon v. Kurtzman). This section of the first amendment refers to the establishment clause and free exercise clause and in other words this prevented the government from investing any of its resources to a particular belief system, or prevent anyone from practicing their own belief system, creating a separation of church and state. When it comes to education states have to fund their public schools mostly with taxes, but what about non-public and non-secular schools?

“The Pennsylvania Nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed in 1968 in response to a crisis that the Pennsylvania Legislature found existed in the State's nonpublic schools due to rapidly rising costs. The statute affirmatively reflects the legislative conclusion that the State's educational goals could appropriately be fulfilled by government support of ‘those purely secular educational objectives achieved through nonpublic education” (Lemon v. Kurtzman). Pennsylvania adopted statutes that provided the state the ability to fund the salaries of teachers, textbooks, and instructional material for secular educational services to non-secular and non-public elementary and secondary schools at the expense of taxpayers.

Alton Lemon was the lead plaintiff on the case. Appellant Lemon, in addition to being a citizen and a taxpayer, is a parent of a child attending a public school in Pennsylvania. Funds for this Act came from taxes on horse and harness racing and cigarettes. “Lemon also alleges that he purchased a ticket at a racetrack and thus had paid the specific tax that supports the expenditures under the Act. Appellees are state officials who have the responsibility for administering the Act” (Lemon v. Kurtzman). Lemon had a standing in this case as a tax-paying citizen of Pennsylvania, as a parent of a child that attended a Pennsylvania public school, and specifically for the taxes collected from the sales of a racetrack ticket he purchased. All these actions directly infringed on his first amendment right, because the money collected from these associated taxes went to Catholic schools since they made up a majority of the states private schools, and this is money that could have went to public schools and supported a religion he did not believe in.

“A school seeking reimbursement must maintain prescribed accounting procedures that identify the ‘separate’ cost of the ‘secular educational service.’ These accounts are subject to state audit” (Lemon v. Kurtzman). This is an example of the government’s involvement with non-secular non-public schools and how they have entangled themselves and are now respecting the establishment of religion since, they are directly funding, and now auditing them to ensure public money allocated to the schools are going to secular education programs only, both unconstitutional under the Establishment and Exercise Clause. The case was initially brought before a Pennsylvania District Court where three federal judges thought, “the individual plaintiffs-appellants had a standing under Flast v Cohen (1968). The court granted appellees' motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim for relief. It held that the Act violated neither the Establishment nor the Free Exercise Clause, Chief Judge Hastie dissenting. We reverse. “(Lemon v. Kurtzman).

In 1971 Supreme Court ruled that public funds from taxes to pay for non-secular schools violated the establishment clause of the first amendment in the United States Constitution. This ruling resulted in the creation of the Lemon Test, which is a three-part evaluation of any legislation related to religion. Sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement were the focal points of the provision. The court held that the law must pass a tripartite test to avoid violating the establishment clause. The statute must also have a secular legislative purpose, and its primary focus must be to neither promote or prevents religion and should not endorse government entanglement with religion.

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury” (US v. Calandra). This first part of the Fifth Amendment is designed to protect all persons from the government against the unlawful persecution of a crime without due process. A grand jury is a panel of twelve to twenty-three citizens deciding whether or not there is enough evidence against the accused by a prosecutor to grant an indictment and bring charges against the person. This is one of the five main provisions found under the Fifth Amendment; the Fourteenth Amendment helps apply it to the states.

The sixth amendment “guarantees the right to an impartial jury” (Apprendi v New Jersey). In other words all persons have the right to a fair trial and protection from jurors with biases. An impartial jury are judges whose actions and decisions are free of bias or prejudice, all people regardless of race, nationality, sex, religion, or economic status, have the right to a trial by a fair and impartial jury. Both a grand jury and impartial jury are similar and different in many ways, but also compliment each other.

“On December 11, 1970, federal agents obtained a warrant authorizing a search of respondent John Calandra's place of business, the Royal Machine & Tool Co. in Cleveland, Ohio. The warrant was issued in connection with an extensive investigation of suspected illegal gambling operations” (US v. Calandra). No evidence of illegal gambling was found but evidence of loan sharking was. In this case the prosecutions presents this evidence illegally obtained through the search of Calandra’s business to a grand jury where he is indicted. This should have been protected under the Fourth Amendments Exclusionary Rule since this was an unlawful search and seizure, and the prosecution knows this. “Exclusionary rule of Fourth Amendment, under which evidence obtained from prior unlawful search and seizure is excluded in trial of criminal prosecution” (US v. Calandra). So even though the trial jury will never hear or see this evidence, it is used on the grand jury to bring an indictment, which is very hypocritical and in some ways very bias.

When questioned about his activities John P. Calandra refused to answer, stating that the search violated his Fourth Amendment right. Supreme court ruled that the exclusionary rule could not apply to grand jury proceedings because their purpose is to find out whether a crime had been committed and formally charge someone with said crime, and deter misconduct by those trusted to investigate the crime, and the exclusionary rule interferes with that.

“Apprendi fired several shots into the home of an African-American family and made a statement-which he later retracted-that he did not want the family in his neighborhood because of their race” (Apprendi v. New Jersey). He was charged under New Jersey’s law with inter alia, second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose that carries a prison term of 5 to 10 years and due to a plea deal with the prosecutor was never charged with a hate crime, but the penal code does have hate crime provisions written within the criminal code allowing a trial judge to impose an enhanced sentence, if evidence of a racial bias is presented. During Apprendi’s trial testimony from the officer was presented in court. “The judge, however, found the police officer's testimony credible, and concluded that the evidence supported a finding that the crime was motivated by racial bias” (Apprendi v. New Jersey). As a result Apprendi was sentenced to 12 year of imprisonment 2 years over the original maximum, but since he is now being charged with an additional offense the punishment was within range of the statute.

Supreme court ruled this was unconstitutional because under the Due Process Clause any penalty beyond the maximum prescribed must be submitted to a jury and proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Here evidence presented is being marked as insufficient because it was not formally brought up as a charge by a grand jury. This is complimentary to what is seen in the Fifth Amendments provision, because a grand jury is presented with evidence too indict. These actions by the trial judge in this case created a contradiction in the law the way he sentenced Apprendi. Without a grand jury’s approval he cannot just increase the sentence this is part of common law In US v Calandra we see that the grand jury is being presented with evidence to aide the prosecution in bringing an indictment, but in Apprendi v. New Jersey the prosecution withheld evidence to aide the suspect as part of a plea deal. This is why the there is a lot of criticism surrounding grand juries as they have been labeled a ‘rubber stamp’ for the prosecution and have little to no independent function to protect people from the government.

Edith Windsor is a taxpayer who, as surviving spouse of a same- sex couple, was denied benefit of spousal deduction due to definition of “marriage” and “spouse” provided by Defense of Marriage Act DOMA. She brought action for a refund of federal estate taxes and for declaration that the provision of DOMA violated her Fifth Amendment right. Windsor is the widow of Thea Clara Spyer, who died in 2009. They were married in Toronto, Canada, in 2007, and their marriage was recognized by the state of New York. When she died Spyer left her property to her spouse, and because federal law did not recognize their marriage, the government imposed $363,000 in taxes.

If their marriage was recognized, the estate will be eligible for an exemption from marriage, and no taxes will be imposed. In US v. Windsor the inhertance of an estate disproves polygamy because the division of assetts amongst two spouses would result in a dispute. The proceedings would draw out in a court matter requiring government entanglement in marriage, which could be argued to not separate church and state. “n 1996, as some States were beginning to consider the concept of same-sex marriage, see, e.g., Baehr v. Lewin, 74 Haw. 530, 852 P.2d 44 (1993), and before any State had acted to permit it, Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 110 Stat. 2419. DOMA contains two operative sections: Section 2, which has not been challenged here, allows States to refuse to recognize same- sex marriages performed under the laws of other States” (US v. Windsor). Even though New York State accepted her marriage federally it was still not recognized at the time, or by other states that did not acknowledge same-sex couples. As a result there is little to no regard for polygamy, which is far more extreme that same-sex marriage.

In Lawrence v. Texas for polygamy is also not going to be protected as seen in the “Texas statute making it a crime for two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct was unconstitutional, as applied to adult males who had engaged in consensual act of sodomy in privacy of home, as impinging on their exercise of liberty interests protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment” (Lawrence v. Texas). Supreme court ruled that the criminal complaintants rights were violated under the Due Process Clause of he Fourteenth Amendment, because two consensual adults conducting in sexual activity in the home is considered privacy protected. Even though this protects the right to practice sexual activites deemed ‘different’ in the privacy of ones own home. A marriage is a legally recognized union between two people established by law, and applied throughout the nation in many provisions. Current United States law does allow or recognize polygamy and many statutes and provisions established beforehand support this current state.

Even though what you do in your home constitutes as your privacy once apart of society there are laws to follow and guidelines to abide by and as far as marriage constitutes in the United States polygamy does not fit under those provisions. Whether polygamy be morally wrong or a constitutional right is not federally protected, and it is up to future courts to decide if the case should ever come up. As seen in states like Utah where polygamy is heavily practiced. Statutes establishing an anti-polygamy agenda have been declared unconstitutional, yet the ban on multiple marriage licenses stays intact.

The 14th Amendment Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on 9 July 1868 as one of the reconstruction amendments. One of the most important amendments to this day is that the because it deals with citizenship rights and equal protection of laws, and has been proposed in response to issues relating to former slaves following the American Civil War. This amendment is a crucial one, because states had to ratify it in order to restore representation in Congress. This especially hurt the Confederate Southern states who lost the war.

This amendment is crucial in providing equal protecting under the law to the entire nation, and as a result help to unify the states under a federal legislative branch, but also garaunteed rights to those formally unrecognized under statehood. The provisons also took the current laws and applied them to states that failed to follow federal guidelines and brought about change and opportunity that many people once could not afford. The Due Procees clause granted protection from the federal government but now also applied it to states that were rebelling and abusing its citizens.

For example in Brown v. Board of Education where courts stated that “separate is inherently unequal” and ruled that public school segregaton violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause, gave opportunites to African Americans that did not have them attending segrated schools, opening doors and giving people a chance to reach the American dream.

Work Cited

  1. New Jersey Supreme Court. Apprendi v. New Jersey. 26 June 2000.
  2. United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circut. United States v. Calandra. 26 June 2000.
  3. United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circut. United States v. Windsor. 26 June 2013.
  4. State Appellate Court. Lawrence v. Texas. 26 June 2003.
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The First Amendment And Equal Protecting. (2019, Apr 26). Retrieved April 18, 2024 , from

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