Do good walls make good neighbors? the sacred and the secular in religion clause jurisprudence

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2010-05

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McCormick, William Alvin

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Abstract

In deliberating on the application of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the United States Constitution’s First Amendment, the Supreme Court since 1947 has consistently failed to develop a principled distinction between religion and non-religion. This has hampered its ability to respond to developing challenges in Religion Clauses jurisprudence and to interpret those clauses in a systematic manner. Its recourse to facile characterizations of secularism and pluralism has exacerbated this problem. Attending to incoherence in the Court’s understanding of religion points to a definition of religion based in revelation and grounded not in the language of preference, identity or value, but in natural law and metaphysics.

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