I've been posting rough drafts from what I hope will be an upcoming book focused on Supreme Court cases related to church-state separation in public education. Some aren't cases likely to get full treatment in the book but of interest to me personally, so I ramble about them here. Others – like this one – don't require extended analysis or my trademark pithy insights, but still deserve a mention. (The final version of this one will probably be shaved by about a third to keep things readable and leave a few trees in the forests.)
Even Scalia couldn’t have genuinely believed that the First Amendment only kicked in once an institution attained a specific number of members or reached a preset threshold of political power. Playing on the struggles of the Satmar to set up the straw argument that the issue was one of dominance over the rest of New York was disingenuous at best, red-meat ranting better suited to Fox News than the nation’s highest court.
Kiryas Joel was (and is) a community of particularly insular Hasidic Jews (the Satmars) in New York. Most of their children attended private religious schools, but they asked the state for assistance providing care and education for their special needs children. Initial efforts to serve these particular children ran into conflict with recent Supreme Court rulings which struck down several public school efforts to serve high needs kids in religious institutions. New York responded by allowing the Satmars to create their own neighborhood and later a publicly funded neighborhood school tailored to their precise boundaries.
As a practical matter, it certainly solved the problem. Constitutionally, on the other hand...
The circumstances of Kiryas Joel were unusual enough that the logistics themselves offer little to guide future students, parents, educators, or administrators. For anyone not living or working in a carefully constructed community of cultural outliers who end up with their own state-financed school district for special needs children, there seems (at first glance) to be little reason to devote more than a few lines to the case and its outcome.
And yet, taken in context, the case offers several points of interest and possible instruction – even for those uncertain what Hasidic Judaism even means.
A “Hall of Separation”
That’s a horrible title and I wish I could stop thinking it’s not.
As you probably know, given that it’s pretty much all I talk about these days, I’ve been researching Supreme Court cases involving issues of church-state separation in relation to public education. My hope is to have something ready before the entire system collapses and any benefit one may derive from it is no longer relevant.