Serious Sectarian Siege: The Appalling Attack on State Constitutions
The guarantee of religious liberty and church-state separation found in the U.S. Constitution is sacrosanct. Over the years, attempts in Congress to revise the First Amendment to allow official school prayer and other theocratic schemes have garnered a deserving fate: ignominious defeat.
State constitutions contain protections of religious freedom as well, and many include especially high and strong walls of separation between church and state. These provisions are an important second line of defense in the battle to preserve freedom of conscience. They should also be zealouslv defended.
Thirty-eight state constitutions contain language expressly barring the diversion of taxpayer money to sectarian institutions. Increasingly, they are coming under attack by the forces that promote vouchers, "faith-based" initiatives and other types of public aid to religion.
In Florida, residents will vote this November on a proposal to erase the strong church-state separation language from their constitution. Efforts are under way to remove or water down church-state language in the constitutions of Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming, and Americans United activists are fighting back.
Ironically, conservatives - who often claim to revere tradition and precedent - are leading these drives. They want to bring taxpayer support for religious education through vouchers to these states and know that these constitutional provisions stand in their way. …