Kennedy, Carson, and Dobbs:
Law and Religion in Pressing Supreme Court Cases

A Canopy Forum Thematic Series
July – November 2022

On June 30, 2022, the United States Supreme Court marked the end of its most contentious term in recent memory. We also saw the swearing in of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman elevated to the high court. In light of these events, Canopy Forum is offering this series exploring the intersections of law and religion in relation to these recent cases, most notably Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (prayer in schools), Carson v. Makin (school choice and state funding), and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (abortion access).

“Protecting Students From Religious Coercion After Kennedy v. Bremerton”

Gabriela Hybel and Alex Bodaken
November 2nd, 2022

“2021-2022 was a blockbuster Supreme Court term for opponents of church-state separation. In the course of a few short months, the Court stripped women of their right to an abortion, required Maine to fund private religious schools, and ordered Boston to fly a Christian flag at its City Hall. But another case may represent the greatest threat to church-state separation this country has seen in half a century. In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the Court adopted a football coach’s…”

“The Rise and Fall of Church-State Separation”

Damon Mayrl
October 13th, 2022

“For the past 60 years, American education has been governed by a policy of “strict separation” of church and state that formally disallowed both the teaching of religion in public schools, and public funding for religious schools. Like all policies, strict separation was a political settlement that emerged thanks to a strategic campaign by separationist actors in the years immediately after World War II. Motivated by a vision of public institutions that protected religious rights by vigilantly guarding…” 

“In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that when a state funds private school education it must also fund religious education. The state of Maine created a tuition assistance program for rural areas that had no public school option; it funded only those private schools that offered an education similar to one that children would receive at a public school. Because religion is not endorsed in Maine’s public school system, the state did not want to pay for religious schools that endorsed…”

“Law, Religion & Abortion Law of the United States: A Jewish View”

Michael J. Broyde
September 26th, 2022

“It goes without saying that abortion law in America now is a very raw and emotional topic for many in the United States. Changes in abortion laws do directly affect women’s access to abortion and could very well result in great public health consequences. While there are obviously many aspects to this issue, this paper focuses on a very narrow question: what the secular law regarding abortions ought to be according to Jewish law…” 

“There is No Religious Freedom Argument for Abortion in Islam”

Ismali Royer
September 23rd, 2022

“When a Reform Judaism synagogue sued the governor of Florida on the grounds that the state’s restrictions on abortion violated their members’ religious freedom, some speculated that a similar claim might be made for Muslims. Adopting this argument, an anonymous Muslim woman recently joined a lawsuit against the State of Indiana, arguing that its abortion law “severely burdens [her] sincere religious beliefs…” 

“Carson v. Makin and the Blossoming of Religious Freedom in Education”

Charles J. Russo
August 16th, 2022

“Notwithstanding the fears of the Supreme Court’s critics, who suggest that it intends to eliminate public education by providing direct funding to faith-based schools (particularly those with Christian affiliations), the Court’s recent ruling in Carson v. Makin does not signal a “holy war” against public education. Supporters of aid to students who attend faith-based schools rely on the Child Benefit Test, an evolving legal construct…” 

“Kennedy v. Bremerton: The Wall Separating Church and State Just Got a Little Shorter”

Brett A. Geier
August 15th, 2022

“Kennedy v. Bremerton was heard by the Supreme Court in 2022. But the case truly began in 2015 when Joseph Kennedy, a part-time football coach for Bremerton High School, began praying at midfield after the games – first alone, then joined by coaches, players, and some players from the opposing team at the invitation of Coach Kennedy. When the school district learned of Coach Kennedy’s activities, they noted their disapproval, citing a violation of the Establishment Clause, and precluded him…” 

“Dobbs Is Not a Religion Case”

Bruce Ledewitz
August 1st, 2022

“I was unhappy, but not surprised, to see Canopy Forum including Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overruled Roe v. Wade, in a call for submissions under the rubric, “Law and Religion in Pressing Supreme Court Cases.” I was not surprised because, for years, many critics have labeled pro-life opposition to Roe a purely religious viewpoint. This labelling continued after Dobbs was decided. Eddie Tabash, the Board Chair of the secular Center for Inquiry…” 

“A ‘Revolutionized’ Supreme Court Term”

Steven K. Green
July 29th, 2022

The Supreme Court’s Term in 1991-1992 promised to be highly consequential. Two hot-button issues were on the Court’s docket — abortion and school prayer — and in both cases litigants and amici asked the justices to overturn established precedent. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that precedent was, of course, Roe v. Wade with its famous trimester analysis; in Lee v. Wiseman the precedent was Lemon v. Kurtzman with its infamous three-pronged test…” 

“The Supreme Court Says Conscience is Everything. Or Nothing. It Depends.”

Len Niehoff
July 27th, 2022

“The Supreme Court has long recognized the individual human conscience as sacred territory. One of the most famous expressions of this principle comes from Justice Robert Jackson in the 1943 case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. He wrote: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess…” 

“Tax Policy: A Sieve Separating the Genuine Pro-lifers from the Fakes”

Susan Pace Hamill
July 25th, 2022

“Labeling themselves “pro-life,” white conservative evangelical Christians waged war against abortion for decades. On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court — recently configured in their image — handed them what will ultimately prove to be a Pyrrhic victory.  Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization obliterated a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion, which was established fifty years ago in Roe v. Wade…” 

“Purity Culture and the Overturn of Roe: Understanding Christian Nationalistic Ideology and its Impact”

Jenny McGrath
July 15th, 2022

In June 24th, the Supreme Court reversed the nearly 50-year-old legal precedent protecting the right to safe abortions in overturning Roe v. Wade. While the outrage and fear this decision caused was widespread, taking many forms, my own mind returned to my 13th birthday. It was the day I received my purity ring. As a young woman raised in evangelical purity culture, in this short, albeit significant ceremony…” 

“What is an Establishment of Religion?”

Vincent Phillip Muñoz
July 14th, 2022

“Though all eyes are understandably focused on whether the Supreme Court will overturn Roe and Casey, the justices will also soon decide a significant establishment clause case. In April, the Court heard oral arguments in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a case involving a football coach at a public high school who lost his job after repeatedly kneeling on the 50-yard line in post-game prayer…” 

“Crisis Pregnancy Centers: How Evangelical Purity Culture Funded Thousands of Anti-Abortion Clinics”

Victoria Houser
July 8th, 2022

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) have periodically received attention in mainstream media outlets for their religious affiliations and anti-abortion positions. This past week, Abigail Abrams and Vera Bergengruen released an article in Time magazine outlining the insidious rhetoric these clinics use to attract pregnant people seeking abortions…”

“Pushing States to Attach Regulatory Strings to Vouchers”

James G. Dwyer
November 7th, 2022

“In its Carson v. Makin decision, the Supreme Court held that the State of Maine violated the Free Exercise rights of parents who wished to send their children to religious schools using Maine’s tuition assistance program, by excluding “sectarian” schools from eligibility…”