In today’s Baltimore Sun, there is an op-ed by New Hampshire Union Leader editorial page editor Andrew Cline. Cline makes an argument that I’ve heard a lot from religious conservatives lately, that the courts go to far when they rule that government “endorsement” of religion is unconstitutional:
I disagree with the wording of that statement. But it defies logic to say it establishes a state religion. And in fact, Judge Jones does not conclude that. Under Establishment Clause jurisprudence, he doesn’t have to.
In the 1984 case Lynch v. Donnelly, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor created a new standard that redefined the Establishment Clause. Government policies don’t have to “establish” a state religion - as the Constitution requires - to be unconstitutional. They simply have to “endorse” a religious point of view. Justice O’Connor succeeded in rewriting the First Amendment, and Judge Jones used that rewrite to strike down the intelligent design statement.
As the Establishment Clause morphs into a general anti-religion clause and judges continue to strike down not the establishment of religion, or even the teaching of it, but the mere practice of pointing it out to students, it is easy to imagine a day when no reference to God, religion or spirituality will be allowed in school.
I think Cline manages to misunderstand a couple of different things here. He obviously doesn’t have a clue about why O’Connor defined the “endorsement” test, or how the circumstances of this case illustrate the value of that standard. He also doesn’t seem to grasp exactly what the Dover School Board was attempting to do.