Church-State Relationships in America

By Gerard V. Bradley | Go to book overview

1
Everson's History: The One (and Only?) Justification of the No-Aid-to-Religion Rule

Arthur Sutherland wrote in 1962 that the Supreme Court's proscription of non- discriminatory support of religion was the "most influential single announcement of the American law of Church and State. " 1 Another score or so years has proved this an understatement. The ban on even sect-neutral promotion of religion was proclaimed in the 1947 case of Everson v. United States, a case that effectively opened the modern era of church-state jurisprudence. Writing for the Court, Justice Hugo Black determined:

The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. . . . No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institution, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. . . . In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and State." 2

Since the publication of Sutherland's observation, the no-aid injunction has taken its place as the second of the Court's three-pronged test (first articulated in the case of Lemon v. Kurtzman) for sorting out unconstitutional government actions: a statutory program must not have an effect that advances religion (as well as a secular purpose, and it must avoid excessive entanglement with religion). 3 And although one cannot say that no aid or advancement explains all of the Court's Establishment Clause holdings, all of the numerous private school assist-

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