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The 1985-86 Term of the Supreme Court was characterized by continuing deep divisions within the Court regarding the nature of religious freedom, the role of religion in society, and the constitutional approach which should be adopted for cases raising religious freedom issues. In all, the Court decided five major religious freedom cases with full opinions, granted review in two cases, and denied review in at least thirty-three others. In addition, three other cases decided on the merits which did not specifically involve religious freedom did include discussion of important questions concerning the relationship of law and religion. In the summary which follows, the cases will be reviewed in a manner which attempts to highlight their individual facts and holdings, as well as their collective impact on the content and direction of the law of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. After a review of the facts and issues presented by each of the cases decided, a more lengthy analysis of what might be considered the “base line” issues in the cases will be discussed with a view toward discerning a pattern, if any, in the Court’s approach to given types of cases arising under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.



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