The First Amendment and Religion
The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion,expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an Individual’s religious practices. The Free Exercise Clause protects citizens' right to practice their religion as they please, so long as the practice does not run afoul of a "public morals" or a "compelling" governmental interest. The Establishment clause prohibits the government from "establishing" a religion.
Previous cases found that it is constitutional to teach religion in public schools, but it is also a constitutional right for students to express their right to not want to learn or exercise the right to not partake in prayer.
The Abington case involves a woman in Pennsylvania who did not want students in the public school to have to recite and learn passage from the Bible. They were required to read at least 10 verses and to pray the Lord's Prayer. Only a note from home could excuse a student.
The Warren court decided that having a note was irrelevant because the school was still going to have the rest of the students learn religious prayers and therefore violate the Establishment Clause. The forced reading was ruled unconstitutional in a vote 8-1.
The Court found a violation. The activities encroached on both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment since the readings and recitations were religious ceremonies and were intended by the State to be so. Also, Justice Clark argued the ability of a parent to excuse a child from these ceremonies by a written note was irrelevant since it did not prevent the school's actions from violating the Establishment Clause.