Question: The Constitution in Your Community Assume that you are working

The Constitution in Your Community
Assume that you are working as a legal assistant for a civil rights firm. Your firm has been retained by a local woman, Ima A. Theest, who wants to challenge her local vil-lage council’s practice of praying before council meetings. It seems that the village council in the town of Samsville has regularly said a prayer before starting its monthly meetings. The prayer is led by the mayor of the town and generally asks for “ God’s guidance” in making decisions regarding the public interest of the village. Typically, the mayor asks those in attendance at the meeting to bow their heads, before stating, “ Dear God. We ask that you be present with us tonight as we deliberate and discuss matters that are important to your people. We ask that you guide us and strengthen us as we seek to act in the best interest of our community. Please give us wisdom and courage so that we may do good work and help those around us. We ask this in your name. Amen.” The mayor and council members defend the pre- meeting prayer by saying that it is part of a longstanding tradition within the community that merely offers the council and those in attendance at the meetings to have a moment of reflection before discuss-ing matters of public importance. Ms. Theest, however, believes the council’s prayer violates the First Amendment Establishment Clause, as well as the state’s constitu-tional protections against religious compulsion. Accordingly, you are asked to prepare a memorandum identifying whether and to what extent the Establishment Clause and your home state’s constitution prohibit the village council of Samsville from continu-ing with their pre- meeting prayer. Be sure to consider each of the Supreme Court’s tests for interpreting the Establishment Clause, as well as any separate standards used under your state’s constitution.
Going Federal
Assume that Jefferson School District, a local public school district, has adopted a policy for its students that bans the wearing of “ any hat, cap, or other type of clothing on or around a student’s head” during regular school hours. The school wants to reduce the number of distracting clothing items that may interfere with the educational process and to reduce potential artifacts that could be used for cheating on exams. Sheila Smith, a Jefferson high school student and a practicing Muslim, believes the school district’s new policy interferes with her religious practice of wearing a burqa during the school day. She would like to file a federal lawsuit challenging the school’s new policy as an unconstitutional infringement on her religious freedom. Consider Ms. Smith’s chal-lenge in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Employment Division v. Smith ( 1990), the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and any other legal protections for religious freedom afforded under your state’s legal authorities. Then prepare a legal memorandum where you outline a federal complaint to be filed on behalf of Ms. Smith and assess the merits of her case.
Moot Court
Consider the history, wording, and context of the federal Pledge of Allegiance. Then read and outline the two Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decisions regarding the con-stitutionality of the Pledge–– Newdow v. Carey ( 2010) ( upholding the constitutionality of the Pledge) ( http:// undergod. procon. org/ sourcefiles/ ( 9thcircuitrulingMar_ 2010. pdf ) and Newdow v. Elk Grove School District , 292 F. 3d 597 ( 9th Cir. 2002) ( finding the “ under God” provision unconstitutional). Work in teams of two. The first team should prepare a five- minute oral argument presentation wherein they present arguments challenging the constitutionality of the “ under God” provision within the Pledge. Con-versely, the second team should prepare a five- minute oral argument asserting why the “ under God” provision does not violate the Establishment Clause.

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