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The Passing of Nonsectarianism - Some Reflections on the School Prayer Case

24 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2006  

Robert E. Rodes Jr.

Notre Dame Law School


Engel v. Vitale was a landmark case which marked a jurisprudential shift in the constitutional meaning of the Establishment Clause. This paper, written in the aftermath of this important case, reflects on, and contrasts, England's historical establishment of the Church with historical nonsectarianism in the United States. After analyzing the role which the tripartite Protestant-Catholic-Jew nonsectariansm played in society before Engle, the paper suggests that nonsectarianism served the beneficial purpose of directing the whole institutional structure of society toward the last end of human beings. With the passing of nonsectarianism, the nation is left with the problem of accurately and adequately institutionalizing the defining national religious consensus that we, as a nation, continue to feel. This paper concludes that, resonant with the religious consensus and spirit of freedom in brotherhood which permeate this nation, the old system of nonsectarianism can best be replaced by a system of dialogue, based on mutual understanding and respect rather than on agreement.

Suggested Citation

Rodes, Robert E., The Passing of Nonsectarianism - Some Reflections on the School Prayer Case. Notre Dame Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 2, 1963; Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 06-29. Available at SSRN:

Robert E. Rodes Jr. (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States

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