General Information: This assignment requires students to evaluate a question that does not have a definitive answer. Specifically, students will write an argument as to how the Supreme Court would rule on the inclusion of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance if the issue were to be brought before it again.

This is an area that people have strong opinions. Having said this, your personal opinion is NOT important for this assignment. Instead, it is your understanding of the Court’s approach to this area of constitutional interpretation to determine whether they would rule “under God” fails or passes the Lemon Test. Students should carefully study Patterson’s discussion of the Establishment Clause and the following court cases using Oyez prior to beginning the assignment:

  1. Engle v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962)
  2. Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)
  3. Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985)
  4. Locke v. Davey, No. 021315 (2004)
  5. Van Orden v. Perry, 545 U.S. 677 (2005)
  6. McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky., 545 U.S. 844 (2005)

How to Write a Critical Evaluation of the Establishment Clause: Critical thinking is the “ability to interpret, analyze, synthesize, or evaluate information, issues, and ideas and apply creative thought to formulate a substantive opinion, solve a problem or reach a conclusion.” In order to evaluate this question from a more critical perspective, i.e. use information appropriately to investigate a point of view or conclusion, students should format their paper in the following manner:

Introduction: this is a paragraph where students should introduce the topic and state their thesis (argument). The thesis should be confined to a single sentence at the end of the introduction. This paragraph should be no more than five sentences long.

Analysis: The body of your essay focuses on the argument stated at the end of your Introduction. If you make the argument that the Supreme Court would find “under God” to be constitutional, then you must explain why this inclusion passes all THREE parts of the Lemon Test and support this argument using three distinct court cases, i.e. this section should have approximately three paragraphs (one per test). If you make the argument that the Supreme Court would find “under God” to be unconstitutional, on the other hand, then you must explain why this inclusion fails at least ONE part of the Lemon Test and support this argument using one court case, i.e. this section will have a minimum of one paragraph.

Revolving your answer around the relevant course material represents the key to your analysis. Your argument must derive from your understanding of the relevant course material, i.e. the Lemon Test and court cases, and should be logical and centered on facts. In other words, students should not only summarize Patterson or court cases, but explain why this particular court case is relevant to the question at hand. This explanation is critical as it demonstrates to readers why this particular case supports your claim. In addition, students should refrain from using outside sources.

Conclusion: The final paragraph is not a time to restate your thesis or the main ideas already discussed in the essay. Instead, a good conclusion emphasizes the significance of your analysis and nicely ‘wraps up’ the argument of your paper. Conclusions should be approximately four or five sentences in length.

One final note, students are encouraged to reference the rubric attached to this assignment for a more detailed grading breakdown for the assignment.

Turning in the Assignment: After completing the assignment, upload a DOC, DOCX, or PDF file to Brightspace no later than April 11 at 11:59 PM. Email or Google Doc submissions will not be accepted under any circumstances. If you have questions about how to upload a file please take a look at How to Submit a Written Assignment in Blackboard.