Everson v. Board of Education is considered a landmark of First Amendment jurisprudence. That 1947 case marks the first time the Supreme Court held that the disestablishment provision of the First Amendment is binding on the states, and not just on the federal government. The “incorporation” of the principle of disestablishment thus completed the task begun seven years earlier in Cantwell v. Connecticut, when a unanimous Court held that free exercise applied to the states. In Cantwell, the Court overturned the convictions of three Jehovah’s Witnesses, who had been arrested for unlicensed soliciting and a breach of peace.
Posts Tagged ‘First Amendment’
I want to argue that one of the deep reasons for the commonality between religion and the secular is not only historical—that the values that prevailed in a dominantly religious world were not lost during the secularization processes—but philosophical: whether the beliefs that people hold are religious or secular, they are beliefs. As Steve Bruce wrote, “Although it is possible to conceptualize it in other ways, secularization primarily refers to the beliefs of people.” At the extreme edges of secular and religious thought, people deny that they hold beliefs—propositions that they embrace about what is true—and say instead that they have truth.
Concluding a class trip to the Supreme Court, Maureen Rigo and her class from Wickenburg Christian Academy, Wickenburg, AZ, stopped to pray on the Oval Plaza in front of the Court steps. The Supreme Court police ushered the teacher and her class from the steps, having deemed their behavior unlawful—actions that bring to the fore questions of the religious neutrality of public space and the application of the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court ruled against the Christian Legal Society at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law, which claimed that the First Amendment protected its right to refuse membership to gay and lesbian students. The Court upheld the college’s decision to prohibit such action, ruling “5-4 that the college’s decision did not violate the group’s First Amendment rights of association, free speech, and free exercise.”
“Favoritism for religion,” says Justice Souter, “‘sends the . . . message to . . . nonadherents’ that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.” Souter’s is increasingly a minority voice. We are all religious now. As a leading architect of integrating spirituality into medicine says, “our belief [is] that there is a spiritual dimension in every person’s life, even in those who deny that there is.” [...]