When Separation Doesn't Work: The Religion Clause as an Anti-Subordination Principle
Dartmouth Law Journal, Vol. 5, pp. 145-168, Spring 2007
24 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2007 Last revised: 20 Oct 2008
Since the Warren Court era, strict separation between church and state has been the hallmark of liberal religion clause jurisprudence. Separation between church and state has been understood to protect minority religions from majoritarian oppression, preventing dominant religious faiths from using the state apparatus to instill an official orthodoxy or creed. Minority faiths, cognizant of these risks, have thus dutifully supported strict separationism as their preferred legal principle.
Yet strict separation may not be to the optimal benefit for religious minorities. Using the experience of Jews in America, I take a critical view of the separation of church and state, showing how both in theory and in practice it takes inadequate account of religious difference and thus is intrinsically biased in favor of dominant religious paradigms (Christianity or secularism). At the same time, separationism is indifferent or even hostile to the particularistic needs of less prominent sects. I then use these observations to construct a new, more egalitarian religion clause jurisprudence, based on the principle of anti-subordination. This principle, inspired by similar critiques of neutral principles made by the legal feminist and critical race theory movements, would articulate an establishment and free exercise perspective that sees as its goal the equalization of status between majority and minority faiths in America.
Keywords: Law and Religion, Judaism, First Amendment
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