Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Information

75 St. John's L. Rev. 219 (2001)


Thank you very much for this timely and important discussion on school choice, religious faith, and the public good.

First things first—Steven Green is right: The Cleveland school-voucher case is headed for the Supreme Court. And I am afraid that Mr. Green is also correct when he observes that the question whether the First Amendment permits States to experiment with meaningful choice-based education reform will likely turn on Justice O'Connor's fine-tuned aesthetic reactions to the minutiae of Ohio's school-choice experiment.

Putting aside for now the particulars of the Cleveland case, though, I would like to propose for your consideration a few thoughts on the notion of the "common good" and its implications for the school-choice and education-reform debates. As you know, I have been blessed with the chance to teach law at Notre Dame, a Catholic school, and I suppose this is one reason why I have acquired the habit of liberally sprinkling terms like "the common good" atop my conversations about the Constitution, the First Amendment, and the place of religion in the public square of civil society. The term has, to be sure, a pleasant, pious, ring to it. Not long ago, though, a colleague and friend of mine—himself a formidable scholar in the law-and-religion area—asked, with good-natured exasperation, "What does this 'common good' business mean, anyway?"


Reprinted with permission of St. John's Law Review.



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