False Facts and Holy War: How the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause Cases Fuel Religious Conflict

John M. Bickers
Professor of Law, Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Northern Kentucky University

The ancient Greek author Hesiod received his inspiration to write a history of the Olympian Gods from the Muses. They began by telling him they could tell him the truth, but they also knew how to tell him lies. They lied when they thought it was necessary to accomplish what they had decided was a greater good.

Like the Muses, the Justices of the Supreme Court are nine in number. Like the Muses, the justices can tell false things as well as true ones. In the messy area of government-religious speech, the Supreme Court’s opinions sometimes contain facts that seem plausible but are false. They are “lies like the truth.” The Court seems to offer these facts without malice, in an attempt to find a neutral solution to a problem that is incapable of having such an answer. The Court seeks to find a way to reduce the potential ferocity of religious tension in our society, but such attempts have ironically resulted only in an increase in conflict due to the inevitable nature of advocacy within a constitutional system. [Read entire article here]


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