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While the Court held that a state sales tax exemption limited to religious publications was unconstitutional in Two federal laws, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), provide broad-based statutory accommodations for religious practice when it conflicts with federal and certain state and local laws.

A unanimous Court upheld this approach for prisoners against a claim that granting religious accommodations violates the Establishment Clause, reasoning that RLUIPA “alleviates exceptional government-created burdens on private religious exercise” in prisons.

Beyond that, the meaning of the Amendment is often hotly contested, and Establishment cases in the Supreme Court often lead to 5-4 splits.

An accurate recounting of history is necessary to appreciate the need for disestablishment and a separation between church and state.

The religiosity of the generation that framed the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (of which the First Amendment is the first as a result of historical accident, not the preference for religious liberty over any other right) has been overstated.

They also illustrate that the Court has declined to take “a rigid, absolutist view” of the separation of church and state.

In (1984), the Court allowed display of a nativity scene surrounded by other holiday decorations in the heart of a shopping district, stating that it “engenders a friendly community spirit of good will in keeping with the season.” But in (1989), a different majority of Justices held that the display of a nativity scene by itself at the top of the grand stairway in a courthouse violated the Establishment Clause because it was “indisputably religious—indeed sectarian.” In (2005), the Court held that a prominent display of the Ten Commandments at the county courthouse, which was preceded by an official’s description of the Ten Commandments as the “embodiment of ethics in Christ,” was a religious display that was unconstitutional.

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