Date of Award

Spring 1992

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Augenstein, John

Second Advisor

Leahy, William P.

Third Advisor

Thom, Carl


This is an analysis of the impact of Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., on American nonpublic education in the twentieth century and an overview of his interpretation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution regarding the relationship between church and state. Although that relationship is typically referred to as a "wall of separation," Brennan described it as an "elusive line" which must be faithful to the intentions of the Constitutional framers but continually adjusted to meet the needs of a changing society. This work attempts to demonstrate Brennan's judicial struggle to balance the past with the present in the general area of church-state relations and the interests of both religion and government in the specific context of nonpublic schools. In addition, this is an examination of Justice Brennan's personal belief system, his judicial style, and the ways in which, as a prominent twentieth-century Catholic, he integrated his religious faith and intellectual worldview with his responsibilities as a Supreme Court Justice. Contrary to the views of many, Brennan was not hostile or indifferent toward religion. Rather, he believed in separating the practice of his faith from his professional duties, often declaring his loyalty to both the Church and the Constitution. While this work focuses on the ten major Supreme Court decisions regarding nonpublic education for which Brennan wrote either the majority opinion or a separate concurrence or dissent, attention is also given to selected church-state opinions which help to reveal his approach to interpreting the First Amendment's establishment and free exercise clauses. References to his other education-related opinions, as well as many of his addresses, articles, and tributes, create a framework for examining his nonpublic school writings. Brennan's passionate concern for the protection of individual human rights is a theme which dominated much of his writing. When he specifically interpreted the establishment and free exercise clauses, his commitment to safeguard the interests of both religion and government stood out...



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