Steven D. Smith

Document Type



This article challenges the standard view in which Everson v. Board of Education was the foundational and most important establishment clause decision and the school prayer decisions of the early 1960s (Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp) were virtually automatic corollaries. In fact, the article argues, it was the school prayer decisions that were foundational, subverting Everson’s “no aid separationism,” and animating not only later establishment clause jurisprudence but much else in constitutional and public discourse besides. Indeed, it is plausible to see the influence of the school prayer decisions and their articulation of secular neutrality as a constitutionally mandated baseline in many of the social conflicts often today placed under the heading of “culture wars.”