History, Transparency, and the Establishment Clause: A Proposal for Reform

48 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2010

See all articles by Lisa Shaw Roy

Lisa Shaw Roy

University of Mississippi School of Law

Date Written: 2008


From the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1947 incorporation of the Establishment Clause in Everson v. Board of Education up to the present, the Supreme Court has used historical premises to create, defend, and redefine Establishment Clause doctrine. If one follows the development of that doctrine, however, one finds a disturbing lack of consensus. Originalists on the Court would use the history to bind decision-makers today; living Constitutionalist justices, on the other hand, derive only abstract lessons from history. Most of the scholarly critics have lined up behind one or the other position, either pressing for a doctrine based on an original understanding or advocating a retreat from a historically based Establishment Clause. There is an unmined middle ground, however, in which Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court could bypass arguments about the modern relevance of Establishment Clause history and instead focus on making their own choices transparent. In this article I propose a procedural solution which requires authoring Justices to explain the use of history in their Establishment Clause opinions. The procedural solution offers transparency - and hence clarity and legitimacy - to the Court’s Establishment Clause doctrine.

Suggested Citation

Roy, Lisa Shaw, History, Transparency, and the Establishment Clause: A Proposal for Reform (2008). Penn State Law Review, Vol. 112, No. 3, p. 638, 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1646439

Lisa Shaw Roy (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi School of Law ( email )

Lamar Law Center
P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38677
United States
(662) 915-6813 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics