As my colleague Marc notes, the proper definition of neutrality is very much an issue in Establishment Clause jurisprudence today, particularly with regard to state-sponsored religious symbols and expressions. Neutrality will be one of the topics addressed at an interesting conference organized by Bruce Ledewitz (Duquesne), scheduled for November 3. Participants include Christopher Lund, Zachary Calo, Samuel Levine, Richard Albert, and Mark Rahdert. The conference announcement follows. — MLM
The Future of the Establishment Clause in Context: Neutrality, Religion, or Avoidance?
The Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits Congress from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion”. There is no agreement today on the Supreme Court, or in American law generally, as to what that command means. This disarray has led to intractable controversies over such issues as “one Nation under God” and “In God We Trust”. Government neutrality toward religion is now challenged by some members of a newly assertive, national religious majority. Conversely, a growing number of nonbelievers, especially among the young, reject even generic references to God. Disappointingly, the Supreme Court has responded to these developments by limiting standing to bring Establishment Clause challenges, rather than by a coherent reinterpretation of the text.
In conjunction with a symposium issue of The Chicago-Kent Law Review, six scholars will explore the future of the Establishment Clause in terms of this contested context at Duquesne University School of Law on November 3, 2011. They will inquire into the possibilities set forth by the three paths open to us into the future of religion in the public square: a new government neutrality, a new relationship of government and religion and a new understanding of how the Establishment Clause is to be enforced.