Establishment Clause-Trophobia: Building a Framework for Escaping the Confines of Domestic Church-State Jurisprudence
Jesse R. Merriam
Johns Hopkins University
Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 41, No. 699, 2010
GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 511
GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 511
Does the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” apply to United States conduct abroad? For years, this question has been lurking in the background of discussions of the Constitution’s extraterritorial application. Indeed, while the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Fifth and Sixth Amendments apply abroad in some circumstances, and that the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement generally does not apply abroad, the Court has never considered the transnational applicability of the Establishment Clause. In fact, only one case has directly addressed whether the Establishment Clause applies abroad, Lamont v. Woods, a Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision holding that the Establishment Clause always applies abroad but less strictly than it does domestically. Although several scholars have recently explored whether and to what extent the Constitution applies abroad, the specific issue of whether and how the Establishment Clause applies abroad has risen barely above a whisper in scholarly discourse. Indeed, although some prominent church-state scholars have commented on the Lamont decision, none has thoroughly analyzed it, leaving a law student Note as the most significant work to engage the Lamont reasoning. The issue is now screaming for scholarly and judicial treatment, as evidenced by a July 17, 2009 audit by the USAID inspector general’s office questioning whether some of USAID’s programs violate the Establishment Clause. This audit, as well as recent reports on this issue by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, indicate the need for legal clarity on this important policy question. This Article seeks to provide that clarity by comprehensively analyzing whether and to what extent the Establishment Clause applies abroad.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 55
Keywords: church-state, Insular Cases, Boumediene v. Bush
JEL Classification: H11, H40, H77, K19
Date posted: September 12, 2010 ; Last revised: October 15, 2010
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