Religion / State: Where the Separation Lies
Samar, Vincent J.
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Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding the scope of the Establishment Clause have failed to provide a clear framework for determining what government actions are prohibited. Part of the problem concerns what kinds of actions constitute an establishment of religion. What criteria should determine the boundaries of an establishment challenge? Are governmental actions that may only indirectly affect religion (either positively or negatively) prohibited? This article aims to provide a coherent and normatively justified understanding of the Establishment Clause to help answer these questions by considering not just the history of the Clause or the cases the Court has decided under it, but also considering overlaps from various philosophical justifications for the Clause—including justifications from rights theory, political liberalism, utilitarianism, and communitarianism. In the process, the article eliminates from consideration the Supreme Court’s so-called “accommodationist” approach and presents a new understanding of the neutrality test that anchors itself between strict separation and the current neutrality approaches. This it does by also taking into account what in moral theory is known as the doctrine of double effect and by showing how the doctrine further limits the various judicial views to just neutrality in the new sense I suggest, while also providing both clearer and firmer conditions.