Nevertheless, there have been many decisions over the years that have tended to weaken the intent of the Framers. In 2001, in Zelman v. Simmons Harris the Supreme Court ruled that school voucher programs did not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The decision represented a blow to the essentially secular nature of the American state and system. By allowing public money to be given to religious schools, the Supreme Court was permitting the violation of a more than two hundred year old principle. In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court chose to accept the argument that giving money to schools was not a case of advancing religion but rather one of who should have power over education - the state or individual parents.
Personal freedom was now being re-defined as something that included the right to government assistance if the government provided assistance in similar situations. Persons seeking a religious education for their children could not be denied this use of tax funds if indeed the government was willing to pay for a non-religious form of education.
Numerous groups have advanced these arguments in one fashion or another. For many the argument comes down to a belief that the Framers intended this to be a Christian nation. While for others, the argument used is that the denial of a "right" to religious education is itself a denial of religious freedom. Such groups gain power by expounding their positions in the media. They form powerful action groups on a kind of grass roots level. Groups such as the Moral Majority led powerful drives against the perceived sinfulness of the American media. They blamed the entertainment industry for destroying much that was good in American culture. Youth would need to be protected form further moral corruption through new government legislation endorsing religious education and allied precepts. To this end, these movements began to agitate for political support of their ideas. Candidates began to run on platforms that espoused clearly religious principles. Notable examples of these attempts to infiltrate the political process would include George Bush's backing of a ban on stem cell research, and his general support for the refusal to recognize the rights of gays to marry, and the thrust to overturn Roe v. Wade and ban abortion. Candidates' positions on these "hot button" issues could make or break political careers. They could also determine the course of elections.
The three named positions continue to play a major role in the current presidential campaign. Each one is closely tied to religious positions. Religious positions such as when life begins, or whom one can marry, are taken as essential determining factors in formulating public policy. Both the anti-abortion movement and the thrust to ban stem cell research depend on religious beliefs that human life begins at conception. These beliefs are not held by all people - not even by all religious people - but many groups believe that these positions should be enshrined in law. Gay Marriage focuses to a large extent on the fact that such a concept is non-traditional, and that homosexuality is condemned in certain religious texts. At this point in time, the federal government has often tried to satisfy those on either side of the issue; gradually pushing the religious position while appearing to uphold the rights of those who do not adhere to the same beliefs. Worse still, they attempt to avoid responsibility for the decisions by pushing the matters off as being ones of states rights. The centrality of religion in American life, and the upholding or destruction of the doctrine of the separation of church and state as mandated by the First Amendment, will come down to the selection of future Supreme Court justices. It is hoped that whoever becomes president will bear in mind the very real and fundamental principles that these selections may change. The Senate also must not neglect its responsibility to advise and consent. It must consider all of the potential implications of its judicial endorsements and confirmations. The next four years may well represent a powerful new test for the basic ideas of American government and society.
Bolick, Clint. "School Choice: Sunshine Replaces the Cloud." Cato Supreme Court Review 2001-2002. Ed. Robert a. Levy, James L. Swanson, and Timothy Lynch. Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2002. 149-169.
Censer, Jack. "7 France, 1750-89." Press, Politics and the Public Sphere in Europe and North America, 1760-1820. Ed. Hannah Barker and Simon Burrows. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 159-178.
Champlin, Dell P., and Janet T. Knoedler. "American Prosperity and the "Race to the Bottom: " Why Won't the Media Ask the Right Questions?" Journal of Economic Issues 42.1 (2008): 133+.
Milner, Murray. Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids: American Teenagers, Schools, and the Culture of Consumption. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Smith, Roger P. The Other Face of Public Television: Censoring the American Dream. New York: Algora, 2002.
Winship, Michael P. Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts, 1636-1641. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.
Dell P. Champlin, and Janet T. Knoedler, "American Prosperity and the "Race to the Bottom: "Why Won't the Media Ask the Right Questions?" Journal of Economic Issues 42.1 (2008).
Roger P. Smith, the Other Face of Public Television: Censoring the American Dream (New York: Algora, 2002) 48
Murray Milner, Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids: American Teenagers, Schools, and the Culture of Consumption (New York: Routledge, 2004) 164
Michael P. Winship, Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts, 1636-1641 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002) 62
Jack Censer, "7 France, 1750-89," Press, Politics and the Public Sphere in Europe and North America, 1760-1820, ed. Hannah Barker and Simon Burrows (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002) 169.