ZORACH v. CLAUSON
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision in McCollum v. Board of Education, New York City began a program in which students in public schools could be dismissed from classroom activities for certain periods to participate in religious instruction elsewhere. In McCollum, the Court disallowed an Illinois program in which representatives of religious groups came to public schools and taught classes during the school day. New York's "released time" program was upheld by the New York Court of Appeals.
Did the New York program violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?
In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court held that the "released time" program neither constituted the establishment of religion nor interfered with the free exercise of religion. The Court noted that public facilities were not being used for the purpose of religious instruction and that "no student was forced to go to the religious classroom." Writing for the majority, Justice Douglas argued that there was "no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence."