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Drawing the line: Religion, Education, and the Establishment Clause, 1947-1997

Long, Emma (2009) Drawing the line: Religion, Education, and the Establishment Clause, 1947-1997. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94489) (KAR id:94489)

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In 1947, in Everson v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court held for the first time that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. The Establishment Clause states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” and governs the institutional relationships between the churches and the state in the United States. With Everson began a controversial and long-running debate: what exactly does the Establishment Clause mean and what kinds of relationship between church and state are forbidden under its terms? As arbiter of the Constitution, the task of interpreting the Clause and its meaning in the modern United States fell to the Supreme Court. This thesis investigates the Court’s interpretation of the Establishment Clause between Everson in 1947 and Agostini v. Felton in 1997, when the Court overruled itself for the first time in this area of constitutional law.

This thesis focuses on the Court’s decisions in the area of schools and education policy, such cases accounting for a majority of the Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence. It considers school aid and the provision of government benefits to religious schools and their students, school prayer and other school-sponsored religious exercises on public school grounds, and equal access, the question of voluntary student-initiated religious activities on public school premises. In seeking to investigate the Court’s decisions, three main influences are considered: the opinions of the Court, the Justices’ private discussions and the alignment of Justices in each case, and the social and political context against which the cases arose and were decided. This thesis takes an historical approach to analysing these events and investigates influences on the Court beyond those of legal origin. In taking this approach, the thesis addresses how and why the Court made its decisions and rulings, the consequences of those rulings for the meaning of the Establishment Clause, and the effect of both on the relationship between the institutions of the churches and the state in the modern United States.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Conyne, George R.
Thesis advisor: Jones, Karen C.
Thesis advisor: Turley, David M.
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94489
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2022 15:45 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2023 09:10 UTC
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