Wallace v. Jaffree Case Brief

Facts of the case

An Alabama law authorized teachers to conduct regular religious prayer services and activities in school classrooms during the school day. Three of Jaffree’s children attended public schools in Mobile.


On appeal, the Supreme Court of the United States held that Ala. Code § 16-1-20.1 is a law respecting the establishment of religion and thus violates the First Amendment . The Court noted that one of the well-established criteria for determining the constitutionality of a statute under the Establishment Clause is that the statute must have a secular legislative purpose. According to the Court, the First Amendment requires that a statute must be invalidated if it is entirely motivated by a purpose to advance religion. In the case at bar, it has been established that § 16-1-20.1 ‘s purpose was to endorse religion. Furthermore, the Court held that the enactment of the statute was not motivated by any clearly secular purpose. The Court concluded that the State’s endorsement, by enactment of § 16-1-20.1 , of prayer activities at the beginning of each school day, is not consistent with the established principle that the government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion.

  • Advocates: Paul M. Bator Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal John S. Baker, Jr. Argued the cause for the appellants Ronnie L. Williams Argued the cause for the appellees
  • Appellant: Wallace
  • Appellee: Jaffree
  • DECIDED BY:Burger Court
  • Location: Public Schools
Citation: 472 US 38 (1985)
Argued: Dec 4, 1984
Decided: Jun 4, 1985
Wallace v. Jaffree Case Brief