chapter  5
28 Pages

The Future of the Church–State Debate

WithTed G. Jelen

In many ways, the late 1990s were difficult years for religious conservatives in the United States. Both long-term and short-term political events provided no evidence of anything approaching a “moral majority” among Americans. Ironically, the reassertion of the value of religious free exercise in public discourse has been accompanied by increasing skepticism about Free Exercise claims on the part of the Supreme Court. Given the Court’s skepticism of Free Exercise claims, and the continuation of the Court’s separatist reading of the Establishment Clause in Everson and Lemon, is there any reason to believe that the issue of church-state relations may eventually be settled? The resulting decentralization of parties and government seems likely to result in the continuation of the church-state debate. There are practical reasons for suggesting that the question of church-state relations is unlikely ever to be resolved in a neat, intellectually coherent fashion.