Monday, March 12, 2007


Slippery Slope

Is the Constitutional injunction that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” in the process of being eroded? Did the 1947 Supreme Court decision in Everson v. Board of Education which allowed public money to be used to bus students to parochial schools set us hurtling down a slippery slope from rigid separation of church and state to intimate embrace?

New York Times columnist Stanley Fish, the prominent American literary theorist and legal scholar, makes a persuasive case in today's "Think Again" column that it has.

In his careful, thoughtful way, Fish takes us on a journey from Everson back in time to Madison's 1785 “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” and then right up to the present with a decision last week by the California Supreme Court approving the use of tax-free bonds to finance construction of buildings at Christian schools there.

In both cases, Fish argues, the reasoning that allowed the wall of separation between church and state to be breached is the judicial equivalent of money laundering.

"The establishment clause may still be on the books," he writes, "but it is honored more in the breach than in the observance."


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