Opinion: Brick by brick, the wall between religion and government is collapsing in America
First Amendment clauses guaranteeing the free exercise of religion and prohibiting its establishment by government have been on a collision course since they entered the U.S. Constitution in 1791. To unravel this conundrum, Supreme Court justices adopted three different approaches:
The late Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the leading advocates of religious accommodation, argued in 1994: “Once this Court has abandoned text and history as guides, nothing prevents it from calling tolerance religious the establishment of religion”. The accommodators now represent half a dozen votes in the current Supreme Court.
Brick by brick, if not by bulldozer, the wall between religion and government is crumbling. Does it matter? This is the case if the United States still wants to protect not just religion from government, but government from religion.
As the founders feared, when religious faith becomes the guiding force of politics, the historic American experience of creating a pluralistic republic is most threatened. Allowing the greatest religious freedom, within the bounds of high walls between church and state, has spared the United States the kinds of religious wars that have plagued human history and riled modern nations.
President Kennedy’s devotion to the Jeffersonian principle of separating religion and government to promote religious liberty has proven more beneficial to the American regime than will be the desire to host Coach Kennedy’s prayer show at public school football games.