Academic journal article Church History

Church History

Academic journal article Church History

Church History

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

Book Reviews and Notes

The Bible, the School, and the Constitution is a lucid interdisciplinary history of religion and jurisprudence in America. In it, Professor Steven K. Green argues the nineteenth-century School Question debates "laid the foundation for modern church-state doctrine" (9). We must understand the "commanding impact" (225) of those disputes, Green maintains, to grasp how profoundly they shaped contemporary interpretations of the First Amendment. The School Question debates were significant for a number of related reasons, Green claims. First, a considerable--and varied--portion of the population was invested in and impacted them, as Americans came "the closest they have ever come" (9) to having a meaningful public discussion about the constitution and religion. The Question was also a lightning rod for many Americans' anxieties over the role(s) of government and religion relative to schools and schooling, and over who or what should provide the moral fabric for a diversifying nation. Green constructs his narrative through a close reading of multiple primary sources including: trials, constitutional amendment propositions, judges' opinions, newspapers, and reports from educational, political, and religious organizations. Through them, the multi-varied, interwoven, and often conflicting players and ideologies implicated in the School Question materialize.

Green's first two chapters cover the early development of the concepts of "nonsectarianism" and "no funding," respectively. In chapter 1 he concludes that by the late 1850s and early 1860s, with the Donohue and Cooke holdings and the New York and Massachusetts Bible reading mandates, courts understood Bible reading as a nonsectarian practice. From then on, nonsectarianism was legal doctrine and a "workable solution" (44) to the School Question. Green provides a similar overview of the no-funding principle in his second chapter. Debates over Catholic school funding were, in Green's estimation, the rule's "most common application" (46) and they illustrate how the various constituents involved in the School Question understood it.

In chapters 3, 4, and 5, Green demonstrates how the relationship between nonsectarianism and no-funding was crafted in three episodes that took place from 1869 and 1876. This is when, Green contends, the jurisprudence the Supreme Court later adopted coalesced. Green claims the Cincinnati Bible War (Minor v. Board of Education), the central episode in chapter 3, "settled the question of whether nonsectarian instruction could ever reclaim its devotional roots or justifications" (135). The question then became "whether any use of the Bible was constitutional" (135). Disparate individuals and groups in the late 1860s and early 1870s sought to change the First Amendment to the Constitution, and Green builds chapter 4 around the tension between these "Amendmentists." The Christian Amendment Movement believed the U.S. debt to a sovereign God should be constitutionally enshrined, whereas the Free Religion Association strove to ensure nothing of the sort would happen. Because they offered such competing visions for the country Green contends, the Amendmentists kept church-state questions relevant. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.