The Interest Group Connection: Electioneering, Lobbying, and Policymaking in Washington

By Paul S. Herrnson; Ronald G. Shaiko et al. | Go to book overview
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ment Clause. Rather than address what religious conservatives believed were legitimate issues of discrimination and disrespect for their First Amendment rights, liberal separationists sought to paint them as theocrats bent on replacing our secular constitutional principles with canon law directives. As a powerful fusion of religious and secular conservative interests began to merge in the late 1970s into a powerful public interest law movement in its own right, bringing with them a constitutional vision that has been accepted in considerable part by the Supreme Court, the powerful nucleus of liberal, separationist civil liberties and religious organizations that had once dominated the church-state arena began to recognize and contend with their legal and political sophistication.

The rise of conservative religious law firms and public interest organizations over the past two decades has had a transformative effect on how church-state litigation is conducted. Once the domain of liberal, separationist organizations, the courts are now more plural and confrontational than ever before. For religious conservatives as well, participation as amicus curiae is no longer the sole means of representation in the litigation process. Well-financed, publicity-conscious, sophisticated, and ever more aggressive, the conservative religious bar has become more willing to identify and sponsor plaintiffs whose complaints have the potential to reshape constitutional law. Just how far-reaching the impact of the conservative religious bar will be on the dynamics of the litigation process and, by extension, church-state relations, is certain to attract the interest of students of religion, politics, and the courts.


Acknowledgment

The author would like to thank Daniel J. Weiss, a 1995 graduate of American University and currently a student at the University of Chicago Law School, for his research assistance. He also conducted personal interviews with several representatives of the organizations discussed in this chapter.


Notes
1.
In general, a "separationist" or "absolutist" position on the Establishment Clause is associated with the belief that government should provide no financial aid or support to religious institutions and religious practices in public settings. For example, an absolutist would oppose all forms of religious worship in public schools, laws that authorized moments-of-silence for student prayer or provided public funds to religious schools for remedial education programs geared to economically disadvantaged students. The reader is cautioned to remember, however, of the risk associated with using adjectives such as these, as

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