The Supreme Court Agreed To Hear A Case Today That Will Probably Nuke Separation Of Church And State
By Ian Millhiser on May 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm
Eight years ago, in an opinion warning of the “violent consequences of the assumption of religious authority by government,” retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor offered a challenge to her fellow conservative justices eager to weaken the wall of separation between church and state: “[t]hose who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?”
Today, there are five justices on the Supreme Court who would trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly. And they just announced that they will hear a case that gives them the opportunity to make this swap a reality.
O’Connor was the Court’s leading supporter of the view that government cannot endorse a particularly religious belief or take action that might convey such a “message of endorsement to the reasonable observer,” and this view put her at odds with the four other members of the Rehnquist Court’s conservative bloc. When she left the Court, she was replaced by staunchly conservative Justice Samuel Alito, and most Court observers expected decades of precedent protecting against government endorsements of religion to fall in very short order.