Willamette College of Law professor cited in recent Supreme Court case

by Cindy Cromwell,

Steven K. Green, a professor at Willamette University’s College of Law, has made significant contributions through his scholarship in the fields of American history, law and religion. Green’s work is routinely quoted in the news media, and last month he was cited in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Professor Steven Green headshot

The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, involves a provision in Montana’s constitution that prevents state aid from being directed to religious schools. Green’s book, “The Bible, the School, and the Constitution: The Clash that Shaped Modern Church-State Doctrine,” was cited by both parties and in several of the amicus briefs in Espinoza. In addition, Green submitted an amicus brief on behalf of four national religious denominations.

Over the course of his career, Green has authored or collaborated on more than 25 amicus briefs for the Supreme Court. He’s also written several books on legal history, American religious history, and the issues surrounding church and state.

Green’s work regarding the separation of church and state, specifically the Blaine Amendment, was extensively quoted in a story that was featured last month in Education Week. The piece cites Professor Green’s analysis of the complex issues regarding the amendment’s origins.

Garrett Epps of The Atlantic also cited Green’s research in “The Battle for the Constitution — Montana's Original Sin.” Epps was exploring the question of potential bias toward the Catholic Church due to the origins of Montana's “no aid” provision, which forbids the payment of state funds to any school or institution controlled in part or whole by any church, sect or denomination.

Green found no evidence that the "no-aid" provisions in the 1889 and 1972 constitutions were motivated by anti-Catholicism. He noted that several of Montana’s prominent political leaders, including representatives of Congress, were Catholic. In addition, the Catholic Church was the largest denomination in the territory/state, and the 1889 “no-aid” provision had the support of Catholics and Protestants alike.

Green was also cited by the Martha's Vineyard Times in a recent article by Jack Fruchtman, “Church and State, Again.” The article touched on issues related to Espinoza.

In another article published last month, Paul Rosenburg of Salon.com quoted Green’s book, “Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of Religious Founding.” The book provides a broad perspective on the history of religion in America, including the development of the Christian nation narrative.

Rosenburg’s story, “Religious Wars: With the Christian Right on the Offensive, Activists Are Fighting Back,” discusses Christian nationalism and the policies of the current administration. It also touches on the efforts of groups across the nation who are opposed to those policies.

Last week, Green wrote a piece for Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs in response to the Berkley Forum’s “Politics of School Prayer.” The piece, “Trump’s Low-Hanging Fruit,” traces various iterations of federal guidelines on constitutionally protected prayer and religious expression in public elementary and secondary schools. It explores the guidelines under various administrations and questions the motivations of the Trump Administration revising the guidelines in an election year.

At the Willamette University College of Law, Green serves as the Fred H. Paulus Professor of Law and Director for the Center for Religion, Law & Democracy.

About the Willamette University College of Law

The College of Law is a private law school located in Salem, Oregon at Willamette University, the oldest university in the western United States. Willamette Law boasts an innovative program designed to prepare leaders in government, private practice, and business with the lawyering skills needed in the 21st Century. In recent years, outside industry watchers such as Moody’s and The National Jurist Magazine have recognized Willamette Law for its positive job placement results. Willamette lawyers are the best dealmakers, problem solvers, community leaders, and change-makers in the most innovative and exciting region in the country. Our location — nestled in the heart of the Willamette Valley and across the street from the Oregon State Capitol, Supreme Court and many state agencies — is an advantage that cannot be matched anywhere in the region.

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