April 02, 2019

Religious Equality in the American National Order

Derek H. Davis

Equality is one of the highest ideals in the American system of government. This has been true since the founding era, as famously recognized by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In our own day, we remain committed as a nation to realizing, to the maximum degree possible, equality among our citizens in how they are treated by government. But aspiring to equality and achieving equality are two different things. And equality is almost always achieved incrementally. Lincoln fought bravely for racial equality, but even a post–Civil War constitutional amendment that abolished slavery hardly resulted in immediate equal treatment of all races in America. Under a doctrine of “separate but equal,” racial discrimination continued to manifest itself across America in our social, governmental, and educational institutions. Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was clearly a major advance in achieving racial non-discrimination in education, but we still fall short in achieving our highest ideals in our public schools, as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently noted: “Until we get equality in education, we won’t have an equal society.”

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