You are right — Justice John Paul Stevens did make it clear where he stands on church-state separation and I would like to see his successor do the same.
While you may not appreciate Justice Stevens for his contributions to the court, you have to admit he is an icon — not to mention a thoughtful, perceptive justice who understands the role of church-state separation in American life.Needless to say, whomever President Barack Obama chooses as a nomineewill have some big shoes to fill.
On April 19, when we attend oral arguments in the CLS case, it will be the last time we see Stevens in action on the court. And I’m sad to say, it will also be the last church-state case Stevens will decide. Stevens voted consistently against interjecting religion in publicschools and did not approve of the government funneling tax aid to sectarianschools. He also opposed the government display of sectarian symbols on public property.
“Whenever we remove a brick from the wall that was designed to separatereligion and government,” Stevens wrote in a dissent to the 2002 Zelmanv. Simmons-Harris decision, “we increase the risk of religious strifeand weaken the foundations of our democracy.”
The majority in the Zelman case upheld voucher subsidies for privateschools in Cleveland, but Justice Stevens dissented because herecognized that majority of the public funds were going towardreligious institutions.
As you discussed, the Supreme Court is deeply divided on church-stateissues. I sincerely hope that Stevens’ replacement is someone whounderstands and upholds the mandate of church-state separation just ashe did.
In the coming weeks, Americans United plans to closely monitor the nomination process to ensure that Stevens’ replacement has the same understanding of our Constitution.
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