Amid the recent Supreme Court argument over a high school football coach’s demand to lead his players in prayer, the judges lost sight of one of the central purposes of the First Amendment’s prohibition on “establishment of religion” — a purpose that should be of particular concern to the court’s self-styled originalists.
The justices’ questions focused on the importance of avoiding religious conflict and coercion or alienation of religious minorities. The framers of the Constitution, however, had another fear that is often overlooked: the idea that state involvement can corrupt religion by turning it into a hypocritical sham. That danger now looms. Will the Court even notice?
For years, football coach Joseph Kennedy led his players in prayers. When the Bremerton school district learned of this, it told him that he could pray after games, but must do so silently and alone. He initially complied…Read More
Andrew Koppelman, John Paul Stevens Professor of Law at Northwestern University, is the author of “Burning Down the House: How Libertarian Philosophy Was Corrupted by Delusion and Greed” (St. Martin’s Press, forthcoming). Follow him on Twitter @AndrewKoppelman.