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Constitutional Divide: The Transformative Significance of the School Prayer Decisions

106 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2010  

Steven Douglas Smith

University of San Diego School of Law

Date Written: October 13, 2010

Abstract

This article challenges the standard view in which Everson v. Board of Education was the foundational and most important establishment clause decision and the school prayer decisions of the early 1960s (Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp) were virtually automatic corollaries. In fact, the article argues, it was the school prayer decisions that were foundational, subverting Everson’s “no aid separationism,” and animating not only later establishment clause jurisprudence but much else in constitutional and public discourse besides. Indeed, it is plausible to see the influence of the school prayer decisions and their articulation of secular neutrality as a constitutionally mandated baseline in many of the social conflicts often today placed under the heading of “culture wars.”

Keywords: Freedom of Religion, Separation of Church and State, Constittutional Law, Culture

JEL Classification: K10, K39

Suggested Citation

Smith, Steven Douglas, Constitutional Divide: The Transformative Significance of the School Prayer Decisions (October 13, 2010). San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 10-038. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1691661

Steven Douglas Smith (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
619-260-7969 (Phone)
619-260-2492 (Fax)

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