35 Pages Posted: 24 May 2005
Date Written: May 2005
Justice William O. Douglas's majority opinion in Zorach v. Clauson famously asserted that [w]e are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. What did Douglas mean, and was he right? More recently, in cases involving the Ten Commandments, the Pledge of Allegiance and other public expressions and symbols, the Supreme Court has said that the Constitution prohibits government from endorsing religion. Can Douglas's Supreme Being assertion be reconciled with the no endorsement prohibition? And does the more modern doctrine demand that we forget, falsify, or forswear our pervasively religious political heritage? This essay, presented as the William O. Douglas lecture at Gonzaga Law School, addresses those questions.
Keywords: constitution, freedom of religion, first amendment, no endorsement prohibition
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Smith, Steven Douglas, Justice Douglas, Justice O'Connor, and George Orwell: Does the Constitution Compel us to Disown our Past? (May 2005). San Diego Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=728663 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.728663