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Disestablishing Environmentalism

107 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2009  

Andrew P. Morriss

Texas A&M School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Ben Cramer

Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Center for Business Law and Regulation; Cramer Legal, LLC

Date Written: April 6, 2009


The debate over environmental policy is increasingly conducted in language with strong religious overtones. Both proponents and opponents of various environmental policies appeal to religious doctrine to support their positions: Those who question human-caused global warming are labeled "heretics," while appeals for environmental "stewardship" echo Biblical texts. Religious groups play an important role in defining environmental policy issues, and both supporters and critics of specific environmental policy views have labeled particular sets of beliefs about the environment a "religion."

In this Article we engage in a thought experiment, arguing that there are valuable lessons to be learned from treating Environmentalism as if it were a religion and therefore subject to the First Amendment's prohibition on laws "respecting an establishment of religion." In particular, the consideration of the economics of the Establishment Clause - perhaps better termed the economics of disestablishment - offers important insights into how to structure environmental policies in a way that can improve environmental quality.

Keywords: environmental law, establishment clause, religion, environmentalism

Suggested Citation

Morriss, Andrew P. and Cramer, Ben, Disestablishing Environmentalism (April 6, 2009). U Illinois Law & Economics Research Paper No. LE07-041; Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-16. Available at SSRN: or

Andrew P. Morriss (Contact Author)

Texas A&M School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce Street
Fort Worth, TX 76133
United States

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center ( email )

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Benjamin D Cramer

Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Center for Business Law and Regulation ( email )

11075 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106-7148
United States

Cramer Legal, LLC ( email )

PO Box 30326
Cincinnati, OH 45230
United States

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