LSAT Reading : Must Be True in Law Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Must Be True In Law Passages

Adapted from the Opinion of the Court by Chief Justice Morrison Waite in the United States Supreme Court Case Reynolds v. U.S. 98 U.S. 145 (1878)

The word "religion" is not defined in the Constitution. We must go elsewhere, therefore, to ascertain its meaning, and nowhere more appropriately, we think, than to the history of the times in the midst of which the provision was adopted. The precise point of the inquiry is what is the religious freedom which has been guaranteed.

Before the adoption of the Constitution, attempts were made in some of the colonies and states to legislate not only in respect to the establishment of religion, but in respect to its doctrines and precepts as well. The people were taxed, against their will, for the support of religion, and sometimes for the support of particular sects to whose tenets they could not and did not subscribe. Punishments were prescribed for a failure to attend upon public worship, and sometimes for entertaining [98 U.S. 145, 163] heretical opinions. The controversy upon this general subject was animated in many of the states, but seemed at last to culminate in Virginia. In 1784, the House of Delegates of that State having under consideration “a bill establishing provision for teachers of the Christian religion” postponed it until the next session, and directed that the bill should be published and distributed, and that the people be requested “to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of such a bill at the next session of assembly.”

This brought out a determined opposition. Amongst others, Mr. Madison prepared a "Memorial and Remonstrance," which was widely circulated and signed, and in which he demonstrated "that religion, or the duty we owe the Creator," was not within the cognizance of civil government. [Semple's Virginia Baptists, Appendix.] At the next session the proposed bill was not only defeated, but another, "for establishing religious freedom," drafted by Mr. Jefferson, was passed. [1 Jeff. Works, 45; 2 Howison, Hist. of Va. 298.] In the preamble of this act (12 Hening's Stat. 84) religious freedom is defined; and after a recital "that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty," it is declared "that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order." In these two sentences is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to the church and what to the state.

Based on the information provided in the passage, which of the following statements must be true?

Possible Answers:

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were well-respected figures in late-eighteenth-century America.

The role of religion in government was a largely settled matter by the late eighteenth century.

Religion's role in government was not a widely debated topic during the eighteenth century.

Fines for heretical religious beliefs were a completely uncontroversial matter in the late eighteenth century.

The politicians of the late eighteenth century did not particularly excel at compromise.

Correct answer:

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were well-respected figures in late-eighteenth-century America.


Almost the entire passage revolves around the serious dispute arising in the late eighteenth century around the issue of religion's role in government, and vice versa. The author notes that the current belief on separation between church and state stems from the ideas of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. This indicates that both men were actually quite well-respected during their own time.

Example Question #2 : Must Be True In Law Passages

Adapted from Wilkerson v. Utah, 99 U.S. 130 (1878)

Cruel and unusual punishments are forbidden by the Constitution, but the authorities referred to are quite sufficient to show that the punishment of shooting as a mode of executing the death penalty for the crime of murder in the first degree is not included in that category, within the meaning of the eighth amendment. Soldiers convicted of desertion or other capital military offences are in the great majority of cases sentenced to be shot, and the ceremony for such occasions is given in great fullness by the writers upon the subject of courts-martial.

Where the conviction is in the civil tribunals, the rule of the common law was that the sentence or judgment must be pronounced or rendered by the court in which the prisoner was tried or finally condemned, and the rule was universal that it must be such as is annexed to the crime by law. Of these, says Blackstone, some are capital, which extend to the life of the offender, and consist generally in being hanged by the neck till dead.

Such is the general statement of that commentator, but he admits that in very atrocious crimes other circumstances of terror, pain, or disgrace were sometimes superadded. Cases mentioned by the author are where the prisoner was drawn or dragged to the place of execution, in treason; or where he was emboweled alive, beheaded, and quartered, in high treason. Mention is also made of public dissection in murder, and burning alive in treason committed by a female. History confirms the truth of these atrocities, but the commentator states that the humanity of the nation by tacit consent allowed the mitigation of such parts of those judgments as savored of torture or cruelty, and he states that they were seldom strictly carried into effect.

Difficulty would attend the effort to define with exactness the extent of the constitutional provision which provides that cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted; but it is safe to affirm that punishments of torture, such as those mentioned by the commentator referred to, and all others in the same line of unnecessary cruelty, are forbidden by that amendment to the Constitution.

Which of the following statements must be true based on the information presented in the passage?

Possible Answers:

The nature of punishment in criminal cases is a set matter that causes little debate.

The definition of "cruel and unusual" punishment is very clear and well-established in case law.

At this time in history, thousands of people were executed by firing squad every year.

Blackstone is not a well-respected figure among most legal commentators.

More excessive and extreme forms of punishment were more common in the past.

Correct answer:

More excessive and extreme forms of punishment were more common in the past.


The passage discusses what is considered "cruel and unusual" as a punishment under the Constitution. This means that there are many things that are up in the air and cannot be said with much certainty; however, the discussion of past punishments indicate that the more extreme forms of punishment did happen much more frequently in the past.

Tired of practice problems?

Try live online LSAT prep today.

1-on-1 Tutoring
Live Online Class
1-on-1 + Class
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors