Theological Notebook: The Establishment Clause--What's it for?
Did any of you catch this article by Michael M. Uhlmann in last month's First Things? While I wouldn't sign off on everything he says, he gives one of the most sensible summaries I've see of the Supreme Court's problems figuring out a rational treatment of the Establishment Clause. I think he puts his finger right on the point where the train jumped the tracks (1947's Everson v. Board of Education) and how we'll have to work all the way back to that point in order to get a coherent, non-paranoid jurisprudence of Church and State. That part picks up about halfway down the article. A few select and well-penned lines:
After nearly six decades to ponder the depths of what is one of the central questions of American political culture, the justices have offered nothing except the very divisiveness some of them say the First Amendment was designed to prevent.
A good beginning would be to recognize that the First Amendment does not, and never did, require strict neutrality as between religion and non-religion for purposes of the Establishment Clause. Requiring the state to be neutral as between sects is both constitutionally necessary and morally desirable. Requiring it to be neutral as between religion and non-religion generally produces a decidedly unneutral result—the triumph of practical atheism in the public square.