Freedom of Religion

All CLASS READINGS ARE IN FILE NOTE: This exam is not cooperative.  You may not talk with each other or work together.  You may reach out to me at any point for support or with questions.  It is open book and open notes as explained below but is meant to be done individually. This final exam is meant to take the full two-hour exam period to complete so keep that in mind, particularly if you have accommodations such as time and a half for exams. We will not meet in class for the exam on Friday, May 14th but the exam will be due by the end of that exam block, i.e. at 2 pm on May 14th.

LATE EXAMS WILL LOSE POINTS SO PLEASE TURN THE EXAM IN BY THE DEADLINE. Please answer all three of the following questions. RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT: In 1952, Congress passed a law dictating that the President would sign a declaration each year naming the first Thursday in May a National Day of Prayer.  Though such a practice was not new in 1952 and dates back to the beginnings of the country, it has faced legal challenges including an unsuccessful appellate court challenge in 2011.

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President Biden declared May 6, 2021, such a day this year: (Links to an external site.). How might such a practice be justified in a nation with a separation between church and state? Do you think it is constitutional? Why or why not? What does this practice tell us about the relationship between religion and government in the United States? Mention at least two-course readings or court cases in your answer.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: The Governor of Connecticut recently signed a bill eliminating the religious exemption for mandatory school vaccinations: (Links to an external site.) Such a decision is likely to lead to court challenges and may end up before the Supreme Court.  If it does, the primary issue will be whether or not religious freedom is being violated here or whether public health concerns should outweigh religious freedom concerns.  How do you think the Supreme Court would or should rule? Why?  What does this case study tell us about the relationship between religion and government in the United States? Mention at least two-course readings or court cases in your answer. What reading from the course has stuck with you the most and why?

Your choice can be a reading that angered you, that taught you something you didn’t know, that affirmed something you believe, or that illuminated a different perspective. Each of these questions is questions that could be answered in a couple of sentences or in a book-length manuscript.  Keep the time limitation of the exam in mind (2 hours). Strong essays should also have a strong thesis.  I do not care what your argument is (i.e. there isn’t necessarily a right answer — there are many possible ways to answer these questions) — what matters is whether you 1. support your argument with evidence, 2. organize your essay well, and

3. demonstrate that you have been doing class readings, engaging in class discussions, and apply those readings and discussions to the prompt.  Questions 1 and 2 ask a series of questions and you don’t necessarily have to answer all of them. I’m mostly interested in you using the prompt as an opportunity to show me your thinking and application of the class readings and concepts. Question 3 will be shorter than the others but should still include some specifics from the readings to explain why you picked that reading and to engage with some of the ideas within it.

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