Guest / Limited Access /

Religious neutrality beats hostility again
Last July, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the federal AmeriCorps program was unconstitutionally establishing religion by funding teachers at Roman Catholic schools along with those in public schools. The line between religious and secular tasks "has become completely blurred," she lamented.

Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously reversed Kessler's opinion, drawing heavily on the Supreme Court's 2002 decision allowing school vouchers to be used at religious schools.

"When a government program is neutral toward religion and 'provides assistance directly to a broad class of citizens who, in turn, direct government aid to religious schools wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice,' the Establishment Clause is not violated," Judge A. Raymond Randolph wrote, quoting from the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris voucher decision.

In bringing the suit, the American Jewish Congress (AJC) focused on the program's allowing teachers to teach religion courses outside the program. Where Kessler sees blurriness, Randolph sees clarity.

"Individual participants who elect to teach religion in addition to secular subjects do so only as a result of 'their own genuine and independent private choice,'" he note. "The AmeriCorps program creates no incentives for participants to teach religion; they may count only the time they spend engaged in non-religious activities toward their service hours requirement. And if they do teach religious subjects, they are prohibited from wearing the AmeriCorps logo when they are doing so."

AJC general counsel Marc Stern is still sore. "One minute they are teaching religion and those kids ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueGo Ahead, Evangelicals: Use the P-Word
Subscriber Access Only Go Ahead, Evangelicals: Use the P-Word
Only some believers are ordained. But all are priests.
RecommendedIn the Battle Between LGBT Rights and Religious Freedom, Both Can Win
Subscriber Access Only In the Battle Between LGBT Rights and Religious Freedom, Both Can Win
Why we needn’t fear the worst-case scenario.
TrendingNicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
I had no untapped, unanswered yearnings. All was well in the state of Denmark. And then it wasn’t.
Editor's PickWhy I'm Not a Conscientious Objector
Why I'm Not a Conscientious Objector
I can't condemn war in the way my Anabaptist friends so quickly do.
Christianity Today
Federal Appeals Court Says Americorps Can Fund Catholic School ...
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

March 2005

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.