Religion, Politics, and the Constitution
In the summer of 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a New York state school district created for the benefit of the disabled children of Hasidic Jews was unconstitutional. In a 6-3 vote, the Court ruled in Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet that such a school district violated the establishment clause of the Constitution ( Biskupic 1994; Greenhouse 1994). Writing for the Court's majority, David Souter wrote that the legislature had created "a fusion of governmental and religious functions" and that government is required to demonstrate" 'neutrality' among religions" ( Biskupic 1994, A1). Souter argued that the establishment clause requires that "government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion" (Greenhouse 1994, A1).
In a biting dissent, Antonin Scalia mocked Souter's reasoning, arguing: "The Court today finds that the Powers that be, up in Albany, have conspired to affect an establishment of the Satmar Hasidim. . . . The Founding Fathers would be astonished to find that . . . the Court has abandoned text and history as guides . . . [and] nothing prevents it from calling religious toleration the establishment of religion" (Greenhouse 1994, D22).
In response to Scalia 's dissent, Souter replied: "The license he [ Scalia] takes in suggesting that the Court holds the Satmar sect to be New York's established church is only one symptom of his inability to accept the fact that this Court has long held that the First Amendment reaches more than classic, 18th-century establishments" (Greenhouse 1994, D21).