The landmark case that set precedent for school prayer was Engel v. Vitale. The argument originated in the Herricks school district and was decided by the Warren Court in 1962. The conclusion was that public schools are not allowed to hold prayer, regardless of whether participation was required or not or religious affiliation. The policy of school prayer in a government-funded school oversteps the very clear line between Church and State (Establishment Clause of the First Amendment). The constitution is very clear about congress making no laws that establish any kind of official religion or spiritual activity, thus spending government money (aka taxpayer money) supporting religious practices in schools (such as prayer) does constitute the government supporting religion.
Many believed that even though the students could leave during the prayer, the very circumstance of the prayer happening in state-sponsored schools violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because the purpose of the clause is to keep the government completely separate from religion and religious institutions. Currently, the standing is that, under no circumstances can public schools hold prayer. People are free to practice as they please, but the government cannot be affiliated with religion or it’s institutions.
The landmark case concerning defamation was New York Time Company v. Sullivan. It took place during the 1960s. An ad with frequent, minor discrepancies in its information was published, which also criticized Sullivan’s employees. As a result, Sullivan felt like he had been slandered.
However, the Supreme Court ruled that the New York Times was not liable for defamation. The consensus was that when regarding a public figure, the person wanting the statement removed must determine either knowledge of or gross neglect of the documents’ validity. Part of the reason this ruling was so important was because set the foundation for multi-faced media coverage of the civil rights movement. Many other news outlets (particularly in the South) had been facing defamation suits by local leaders and police departments because they covered the violence taking place when African-americans peacefully protested. Obviously, this level of brutality and violence against blacks (including women and children) made local leaders and police departments lose some of their credibility and support. This defamation ruling set the precedent for other cases like these, allowing for more accurate coverage of the violence taking place. Our rights currently mean that if you are a public official, you cannot sue for defamation unless you can prove that the person who wrote the article knowingly wrote an inaccurate article or acted in gross negligence.
Privacy rights concerning abortion remain a dinner table taboo, a.k.a one of the most controversial political issues today. The landmark case for privacy rights regarding abortion was Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade was decided in 1971 by Supreme Court, which identified having an abortion as a right of privacy, which was protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. This ruling gave women nationally full autonomy over their choice to have an abortion during their first trimester. It also gave states some flexibility in determining what is appropriate for the second and third trimesters. Women’s right to have an abortion currently varies state to state, with mandates on when states can ban abortion (before the point where the fetus can exist outside the womb, banning abortion is not constitutional, however, banning abortion after the point of vitality varies state to state and must include exceptions to protect the health of the mother.) In subsequent cases (Planned Parenthood v. Casey 1992 and Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstadt (2016)) the term “undue burden” was further refined and defined for clarity. Currently, laws that regulate abortion need to be evaluated to see if the new regulation will advance the promotion of public health or further restrict access to abortions.
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