The Endorsement Factor

40 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2011 Last revised: 27 Jul 2011

Marci A. Hamilton

Cardozo Law School

Abstract

During the 1980s, the Supreme Court decided two important cases addressing the constitutionality of local government displays of crèches, or nativity displays, a mere five years apart. The Court held in Lynch v. Donnelly that a crèche located within a display of a variety of Christmas symbols, including, “a Santa Claus house, reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh, candy-striped poles, a Christmas tree, carolers, cutout figures representing such characters as a clown, an elephant, and a teddy bear, hundreds of colored lights,” and a, “Season’s Greetings,” banner was not a violation of the Establishment Clause and thus constitutional. The case, however, did not finally determine the constitutionality of crèche displays because the Court treated the issue as heavily fact-dependent. Five years later, in County of Allegheny v. ACLU, the Supreme Court held the display of a crèche situated on the courthouse’s interior steps did violate the Establishment Clause.

Keywords: Establishment clause, endorsement, First amendment, separation of church & state, law & religion, constitutional interpretation, crèche

Suggested Citation

Hamilton, Marci A., The Endorsement Factor. Arizona State Law Journal, Vol. 43, pp. 1-39, 2011; Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 343. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1871224

Marci A. Hamilton (Contact Author)

Cardozo Law School ( email )

55 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10003
United States
212-790-0215 (Phone)
212-790-0205 (Fax)

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