The Religion Guarantees: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution

By Peter K. Rofes | Go to book overview

1
The Origins of the Religion
Guarantees

This volume devotes itself principally to the current status of the Constitution’s twin protections for religious freedom. It seeks to convey to readers an understanding of free exercise and anti-establishment principles as these constitutional principles operate today—on contemporary Americans, living in contemporary America, coping with contemporary American problems.

To a considerable extent, of course, this understanding arrives on our doorstep courtesy of those robed characters who serve, and have served, on the nation’s highest court. Not surprisingly, therefore, much of this volume will be devoted to examining cases—especially cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States—and ideas about religious freedom expressed in those cases. This examination will enable us to discern much about the contours of religious liberty at work in America today.

Before turning to that task, however, we pause briefly to examine the historical origins of our constitutional protections for religious freedom. More precisely, we pause briefly to examine how and why it came to pass that the words contemporary American judges squabble over in our own time found their way into our constitutional text, and thus into cases that seek to give meaning to that text.

This historical terrain has been ploughed well and thoroughly by generations of scholars. The expertise these scholars have brought to bear on the history, religion, politics, and culture of the colonial era far surpasses whatever isolated insights the author might have to offer. Nevertheless, we begin with a glimpse backward to remind ourselves that the constitutional principles from which we seek guidance today emerged out of the real and tangible experiences of those who occupied our nation more than two centuries ago.


INTRODUCTION

Colonists brought with them to the New World both an established tradition of religious intolerance and a fervent desire to escape that intolerance. These com-

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The Religion Guarantees: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1 - The Origins of the Religion Guarantees 1
  • 2 - The Anti-Establishment Guarantee 29
  • 3 - The Free Exercise Guarantee 123
  • Bibliographic Essay 183
  • Table of Cases 201
  • Index 205
  • About the Author 213
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