Green Publishes Comprehensive Examination of Church-State Issues

Willamette University College of Law Professor Steven K. Green recently published a comprehensive examination of church-state issues in the 19th century. The Second Disestablishment: Church and State in Nineteenth-Century America (Oxford University Press, 2010) examines the competing ideologies of evangelical Protestants who argued that the founders sought to create a "Christian nation" and of those who advocated broader notions of separation of church and state.

"With this book, I've attempted to explain how we got from ‘square 1' to ‘square 3,'" said Green, who proposes that a "second disestablishment" occurred during the 19th century between the ratification of the Constitution and the 1947 Supreme Court ruling in Everson v. Board of Education, which mandated that the Establishment Clause applied to state and local governments.

"Throughout the 19th century, there was limited application of the Bill of Rights," Green explained. "People were fined and imprisoned for working on Sunday and were prosecuted for making blasphemous statements. It has only been since the 1940s that the U.S. Supreme Court has adopted a more separationist view."

In the book, Green argues that a gradual secularization -- the second disestablishment -- occurred during the 19th century as a result of a growing religious pluralism and attempts by judges and attorneys to adopt a more scientific approach to law.

"It was reaffirming to see the degree to which judges, lawyers and scholars put forth what we would consider very modern decisions and the way they articulated values of religious tolerance and equality," said Green, who examined more than 400 court cases in which states struggled with church-state issues during the time period.

Green, who earned a Ph.D. in history after attending law school, joined the Willamette law faculty in 2001 after serving for 10 years as legal director and special counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. In addition to teaching a variety of Constitutional Law and First Amendment Law courses, he serves as director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy.

"I congratulate Professor Green on this important accomplishment," said College of Law Dean Symeon C. Symeonides. "Publishing a book with Oxford University Press is no small feat. Green is the first member of our faculty to do so, but he will definitely not be the last. Four other Willamette law professors have secured contracts with the same prestigious publisher and are currently working on their manuscripts. This is an amazing achievement for such a small faculty and a gratifying recognition of its high caliber and productivity."

The Second Disestablishment: Church and State in Nineteenth-Century America will be released in April.