Editorial: With O�Connors Retirement, Church-State Wall Sits on Unstable Ground

July 4, 2005

Source: The New York Times


On July 4, 2005 The New York Times ran an editorial commenting on the implications of Justice O'Conner's retirement from the Supreme Court. "The wall of separation between church and state is in real danger of falling now that Sandra Day O'Connor is retiring. The Supreme Court narrowly reaffirmed its commitment to that wall last week in its Ten Commandments rulings, but only because Justice O'Connor voted to maintain that wall. If her replacement votes the other way, there may soon be more crosses, Ten Commandments monuments and prayers on government property. There is a growing debate about what impact that would have on American life... Justice Stephen Breyer, who was a key swing vote, suggested - in an argument that may be gaining strength nationwide - that being less strict about the separation of church and state might appease religious activists and reduce the nation's religious tensions. But Justice David Souter made the more compelling argument that the nation's growing religious divisions only underscore the need for the government to remain neutral in religious matters... When Justice O'Connor's successor joins the court, the church-state wall is very likely to weaken. If Justice Breyer is right, yielding ground to religious advocates could reduce 'religiously based divisiveness.' But if Justice Souter is right, it would only make things worse."