Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Church-State Debate. Religion, Education and the Establishment Clause in Post-War America

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Church-State Debate. Religion, Education and the Establishment Clause in Post-War America

Article excerpt

The Church-State Debate. Religion, Education and the Establishment Clause in Post-War America. By Emma Long. (New York: Continuum. 2012. Pp. viii, 279. $120.00. ISBN 978-1-4411-3446-2.)

The Church-State Debate has two purposes: first, to look at the role of the Supreme Court in major church-state issues after World War II and second, to analyze the court's decisions through the lens of educational jurisprudence. To accomplish this task, the author used a research design that categorized rulings in terms of strict separation, neutrality, and accommodation. Where that did not suffice to explain the evolving and often inconsistent rationale of the court on educational decisions, she included political science approaches as well. Therefore, she also used legal interpretations based on constitutional principles, attitudinal measurements that identified judicial blocs among the justices, and empirical data to explain the pragmatism of the decisions of the postwar Supreme Court in America.

After all is said and done, Emma Long emerges as the synthesizer-in-chief of the historical, legal, and political reasons as to why jurisprudence on church-state education matters developed as they did over the past fifty years. Indeed, she says: "The job of the historian ... is not that of a lawyer, and thus the context remains important"

(p. 205). Certainly, this is what sets her well-researched and coherent work apart from others in the same area.

Three main aspects of church-state debate were explored in this book: government aid to students in nonpublic schools, the issue of school prayer, and the problem of equality of access to government benefits. The book took a comprehensive view of the debate over public aid to students in parochial, private, and public schools starting with Everson v. …

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