'We Do Not Preach, We Teach': Religion Professors and the First Amendment
67 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2007
This article examines the interaction of academic and constitutional arguments about teaching religion. It begins by describing the early perception that teaching religion in public universities is unconstitutional. I then explain that the academics, responding in 1963 to Supreme Court dicta in Schempp that teaching about but not of religion is constitutional, chose a subject matter standard according to which the teaching of religious studies, but not theology, is constitutional in state universities. About/of was never the Court's standard, however. Unlike the scholars, the justices often promoted an institutional principle that ignored the content of the courses and focused on the religious or public nature of the schools. Although recent Supreme Court decisions suggest that the Court does not accept the about/of line, the religion professors have not yet revisited their constitutional or academic standards. I conclude that the religion professors misinterpreted Schempp; teaching theology, but not evangelism, is constitutional.
Keywords: First Amendment, Establishment Clause, theology, religious studies
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