A Nation Dedicated to Religious Liberty: The Constitutional Heritage of the Religion Clauses

A Nation Dedicated to Religious Liberty: The Constitutional Heritage of the Religion Clauses

A Nation Dedicated to Religious Liberty: The Constitutional Heritage of the Religion Clauses

A Nation Dedicated to Religious Liberty: The Constitutional Heritage of the Religion Clauses

Synopsis

Here is a concise overview of the historical development and judicial interpretation of the First Amendment religion clauses. It begins with a survey of the history of American religious liberty, goes on to present the views of the Founding Fathers, and then considers the core value of religious liberty and the constitutional purposes that implement that value.

Excerpt

Recognizing that an examination of history can be hazardous as well as fruitful, we will address the historical meaning of a constitutional provision that represents one of America's great contributions to Western civilization. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution declares, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."

This provision, known as the religion clauses, contains two prohibitions against Congress: the first is referred to as the establishment clause, the second as the free exercise clause. The sixteen words of the clauses, so simple yet capable of so many different interpretations, have sparked intense contemporary debate.

In considering the meaning of the religion clauses, chapter 1 of this book will survey the history of American religious liberty, chapter 2 will examine the Founding Fathers' views, chapter 3 will discuss the core value of religious liberty, and chapter 4 will identify the constitutional principles that implement this value. Understanding these principles is more than an abstract intellectual exercise, for they provide an essential context for guiding the resolution of modern religious liberty issues. To this end, chapter 5 will apply these principles, by way of example, to three current issues: the voluntary meeting of student religious groups in public high schools, known as the equal-access controversy; religious symbolism in public life, particularly the inclusion of invocations and benedictions in high school graduations; and the task of defining religion for constitutional purposes.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.