William & Mary Law Review


This Article investigates policies that are responsive to crime in disadvantaged, urban neighborhoods from a community-based context. The vehicle is an analysis of a community-wide prayer vigil held in Chicago in May of 1997. The vigil resulted from a collaboration between the Chicago Police Department and hundreds of mostly African-American churches on Chicago's West Side. Strikingly, the local police district's commander facilitated the vigil. The Article explains the sociological and political significance of this collaboration by drawing on the "Chicago School" of urban sociology, and demonstrating theoretically and empirically the potential for collaboration, through the integration of key community institutions, to promote community capacity to resist crime and to complete residents' other goals and projects.

The Article then addresses constitutional questions. If collaboration between churches and the police, through religious activity, enhances the community efficacy of poor minority neighborhoods, is there any way to reconcile the benefits of such activity with constitutional concerns about religious establishment? We focus on the extent to which African-Americans have been able to influence this jurisprudence through litigation rather than the internal structure of Establishment Clause jurisprudence. A review of the litigation reveals the particular nature of African-Americans' involvement in the development of Establishment Clause jurisprudence, and it demonstrates plainly the extent to which judicial sanction of church-state interaction has had, and continues to have, important racial consequences. African Americans, through representative litigating institutions, have consistently recognized the disparate impact of church-state partnerships; but the Court has never acknowledged the nonreligious implications of its Establishment Clause decisions. As a result, Establishment Clause jurisprudence is disconnected from the realities of disparate impact, and that is potentially problematic for African-American communities. Excavation of the realities of disparate impact is critical in assessing the extent to which modern church-state partnerships should be allowed, or even blessed, by the State.