Equal Separation: Understanding the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment

Equal Separation: Understanding the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment

Equal Separation: Understanding the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment

Equal Separation: Understanding the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment

Synopsis

This collection of essays by six outstanding scholars examines the pros and cons of strict neutrality, a theory, Weber argues, that may provide a foundation for the development of a more compelling view of the First Amendment religion clauses. Representing a challenging array of perspectives, six outstanding scholars critique the concept by focusing on a different perspective and each contributor's dedication to the concepts is clearly manifested throughout. Chapters address strict neutrality as it relates to accommodation, schools, Thomas Jefferson's "Wall," and more.

Excerpt

Not often does a single essay cause one to reorient his or her thinking. Nor does one frequently gain from reading such an essay a framework for further thought and inquiry. Usually we look for a life work by a titan to nudge us toward reorientation. We demand at least a book- length argument to be challenged to create a new framework.

Paul J. Weber, however, through a single article on "equal separation" and James Madison, did lead me to think about relations between religious and civil authority and response in fresh ways. And his set of options concerning styles of separation between "church" and "state" has become one that I find so congenial that it has almost become instinctive for me. That is why when he asked if I would take a look at this collection and possibly write a foreword I agreed to do so. My high expectations were by no means denied.

For a quarter century I have been a University of Chicago colleague of Philip Kurland, a law professor who has with great force and clarity argued that the two First Amendment clauses must always be treated as one. Courts should rule with perfect consistency. In effect, his principle would see the Constitution as a document which was and intended to be "silent" about religion. Professor Kurland has always admitted that this did not picture getting his way, but behind the resigned smile with which he did the admitting was a more determined look: it would be good, he keeps suggesting, if the courts and the Supreme Court used some such principle, preferably his, to bring some clarity and focus to what now looks like muddling or chaos.

Professor Weber, who earlier had written a more historically minded paper (which I wish could appear as an appendix in this book, and which all readers will certainly want to read), here offers a synthetic and synoptic sort of chapter that refines the Kurland ap-

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