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Religious Purpose, Inerrancy, and the Establishment Clause

24 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2006  

Daniel O. Conkle

Indiana University Maurer School of Law


According to the much-contested "purpose" requirement of the Supreme Court's Establishment Clause doctrine, laws must be grounded on secular as opposed to religious purposes. This article advances a normative argument concerning how this requirement should be construed. The author distinguishes between different types of religious purposes and different types of religious beliefs. Most importantly, he distinguishes between "inerrant" religious beliefs, which are characterized by a certain type of closed-mindedness, and "dialogic" religious beliefs, which are not. After developing a suggested analytical framework, the author applies his approach to the issues of school prayer, evolution, and abortion. He then confront various objections that might be made to his argument, including the claim that all religious beliefs must he treated alike.

Keywords: Constitutional Law, Establishment Clause, Religion and Politics, Religious Liberty

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Conkle, Daniel O., Religious Purpose, Inerrancy, and the Establishment Clause. Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 67, p. 1, 1991; Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN:

Daniel O. Conkle (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

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