Implicit Religion, Vol 21, No 3 (2018)

Frog in a Pot: American Atheism and the Thermometry of Supreme Court Ideology

Ethan Quillen
Issued Date: 8 May 2019


Since the 1940s, atheists have played an essential role in re-defining American religion. They have been directly responsible for abolishing sectarian religious education from American public schools. For removing prayer from public schools. For restricting the use of belief affirmations by Americans elected or appointed to federal office. For amending the federal government's definition of "religious training and belief " so that they too might excuse themselves from military service. They have also challenged the theological language of the Pledge of Allegiance, federal funding for faith-based social service programs, and prayer invocations at official legislative meetings. And even on their own, these seven examples tell an exceptional story about American Atheism. But they tell another one as well. Across the sixty-six years in which they were considered by the United States Supreme Court, the Court itself underwent an ideological turn. From "equal justice under law," to justice according to political principles. And from enforcing the separation of church and state, to defending religious establishments in the name of "tradition." By using the first to gauge the progress of the second, this article will tell these two stories.

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DOI: 10.1558/imre.37956


Primary Sources

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