October 15, 2012
Daily Read: Arlen Specter on the Wall Between Church and State
Senator Arlen Specter (pictured), who died yesterday, was known for his involvement with many constitutional law issues including Supreme Court Justice nominations.
The central problem with basing public policy on faith or religious belief is that, inevitably, there is the question of whose faith or religious belief. Put prayer in the schools and inevitably it becomes a question of whose prayer. Let us remember that most American Catholics began sending their children to parochial schools not because there was no prayer in America's public schools, but because the prayer that was there was the wrong kind of prayer. If we institutionalize school prayer, can we seriously expect that religious groups will not want to have some control over about the form and content of those prayers? Indeed, who other than religious groups could we possibly expect to fashion prayers and forms of devotion?
Arlen Specter, Defending the Wall: Maintaining Church/State Separation in America, 18 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 575 (1995).
Specter's essay explicitly states it was prompted by his "incidental reference" to "the basic American principle of separation of church and state” during the 1994 Iowa State Republican Convention that "caused the hall to erupt with boos."
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