Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Mary Jean Dolan


Two significant public issues have been the limits of partnership between government and religion and government's role in helping citizens cope with disasters. One intriguing intersection of these issues is local governments' use of chaplaincy programs to address the human face of trauma, both large-scale and personal. This Article asserts that the constitutional line differs for mass disaster response and the daily human dramas, clearly painful, addressed by local police and fire departments. There is an important and valid role for clergy and faith-based assistance as part of the broad spectrum of governmental disaster relief. In the everyday tragedies, however, any governmental facilitation of religious counsel must be a true accommodation based on a victim's request, and not the automatic result of a 911 call. Analyzing Establishment Clause constraints in these two scenarios, moreover, leads to a new working model for analysis of all government-sponsored chaplain programs, just as one of them is now being challenged after some twenty years of litigation silence on this topic.