Political and Civil Rights in the United States

By Thomas I. Emerson; David Haber | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
FREEDOM OF RELIGION

A. HERITAGE -- AND NOW

MR. JUSTICE RUTLEDGE -- DISSENTING OPINION IN EVERSON v. BOARD OF EDUCATION
330 U. S. 1, 33-43, 91 L. Ed. 711, 732-7, 67 S. Ct. 504, 520-4 (1947)

No provision of the Constitution is more closely tied to or given content by its generating history than the religious clause of the First Amendment. It is at once the refined product and the terse summation of that history. The history includes not only Madison's authorship and the proceedings before the First Congress, but also the long and intensive struggle for religious freedom in America, more especially in Virginia,11 of which the Amendment was the direct culmination.12 In the documents of the times, particularly of Madison, who was leader in the Virginia struggle before he became the Amendment's sponsor, but also in the writings of Jefferson and others and in the issues which engendered them is to be found irrefutable confirmation of the Amendment's sweeping content.

For Madison, as also for Jefferson, religious freedom was the crux of the struggle for freedom in general. Remonstrance, Par. 15, Appendix hereto. Madison was coauthor with George

____________________
11
Conflicts in other states, and earlier in the colonies, contributed much to generation of the Amendment, but none so directly as that in Virginia or with such formative influence on the Amendment's content and wording. See Cobb, Rise of Religious Liberty in America ( 1902); Sweet, The Story of Religion in America ( 1939). The Charter of Rhode Island of 1663, II Poore, Constitutions ( 1878) 1595, was the first colonial charter to provide for religious freedom.

The climactic period of the Virginia struggle covers the decade 1776-1786, from adoption of the Declaration of Rights to enactment of the Statute for Religious Freedom. For short accounts see Padover, Jefferson ( 1942) c. V; Brant James Madison, The Virginia Revolutionist ( 1941) cc. XII, XV; James, The Struggle for Religious Liberty in Virginia ( 1900) cc. X, XI; Eckenrode, Separation of Church and State in Virginia ( 1910). These works and Randall [The Life of Thomas Jefferson ( 1858)] will be cited in this opinion by the names of their authors. Citations to "Jefferson" refer to The Works of Thomas Jefferson (ed. by Ford, 1904- 1905); to "Madison," to The Writings of James Madison (ed. by Hunt, 1901- 1910).

12
Brant, cc. XII, XV; James, cc. X, XI; Eckenrode.

-913-

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