The Constitutional Politics of the Establishment Clause
31 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2011 Last revised: 16 Sep 2017
Date Written: November 4, 2011
In these reflections presented at a Symposium hosted by Duquesne University School of Law on "The Future of the Establishment Clause in Context: Neutrality, Religion, or Avoidance?" I examine the constitutional politics driving the interpretation of the Establishment Clause. I suggest that the Supreme Court’s recent case law on taxpayer standing may signal a return to the founding design of the Establishment Clause. At the founding, the Establishment Clause constrained the actions of only the national government, disabled only Congress from establishing a religion, and vigorously protected the sovereignty of states. Each of these three signposts - national interdiction, congressional disability, and state sovereignty - may yet again soon hold true if the Supreme Court continues on what appears to be its current path toward de-incorporating the Establishment Clause.
Keywords: Establishment Clause, Separation of Powers, Religion, Church and State, Constitutional Politics, Neutrality, Prudential Standing, Nonjusticiability, Flast, Valley Forge, Hein, Winn, Incorporation, Bill of Rights, Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, Clarence Thomas, Passive Virtues
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