Religion and Politics  ch3
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  • 1. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL EXPERIMENT Chapter 3 The Essential Rights and Liberties of Religion
  • 2. Founders  Four groups of founders: Puritans, Evangelicals, Republicans, Enlightenment exponents.  These groups held up the four corners of a wide and swaying canopy of opinion on religious liberty in eighteenth-century America.  Beneath this canopy were the “essential rights and liberties” of religion.
  • 3. “Essential Rights and Liberties” of Religion 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Liberty of conscience Free exercise of religion Religious pluralism Religious equality Separation of church and state Disestablishment, at least of a national religion
  • 4. Liberty of Conscience    The principle of liberty of conscience was almost universally embraced in the young republic. Voluntarism – the unalienable right of private judgment in matters of religion. The principle of liberty of conscience informed some of the federal constitutional debates on religion.
  • 5. Liberty of Conscience 1. 2. 3. Protected voluntarism Prohibited religiously based discrimination against individuals Guaranteed “freedom and exemption from human impositions, and legal restraints, in matters of religion and conscience.” These three aspects of liberty of conscience were embodied in early state constitutional laws.
  • 6. Free Exercise of Religion  Freedom of conscience was closely tied to free exercise of religion for many founders.  Free exercise of religion was the right to act publicly on the choices of conscience once made.  Every early state constitution guarantee “free exercise” rights of some sort.
  • 7. Free Exercise of Religion  Free exercise rights generally connoted freedom to engage in a variety of public religious actions informed by the dictates of conscience:  Religious worship  Religious speech  Religious assembly  Religious publication  Religious education
  • 8. Religious Pluralism    The founders regarded “multiplicity,” “diversity,” or “pluralism” as an important and independent principle of religious liberty. In one sense, religious pluralism was not a principle but rather a cause, condition, and consequence of giving freedom of conscience and free exercise rights to all, with the assurance of equality before the law. In another sense, religious pluralism was just a sociological fact.
  • 9. Pluralism    The founders distinguished two kinds of pluralism pertinent to religion. Confessional pluralism – the maintenance and accommodation of a plurality of forms of religious expression and organization in the community. Structural or social pluralism – proponents encouraged each community to maintain and accommodate a variety of social units to foster religion.
  • 10. Religious Equality   The efficacy of the principles of liberty of conscience, free exercise of religion, and religious pluralism depended on a guarantee of equality of all peaceable religions before the law. The founders’ arguments for religious equality became particularly pointed in their debates over religious test oaths as a condition for holding federal political office.
  • 11. Religious Equality  Religious equality was persuasive in outlawing religious test oaths entirely – first at the federal level and eventually in many states as well.  Most founders extended the principle of equality before the law to all peaceable theistic religions, including Jews, Muslims, and Hindus.  The principle of equality found its place in early drafts of the First Amendment religion clauses.
  • 12. Separation of Church and State  The principle of separation of church and state is often regarded as a distinctly modern American invention but it is in reality an ancient Western teaching.  The principle also had solid grounding in political sources that appealed to American Enlightenment and Republican writers.
  • 13. Separation of Church and State  A range of theological and political sources formed the background for the American founders.  The founders sifted through European and colonial legacy of church-state separation to distill five major themes.
  • 14. Church-State Separation Themes 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. To protect the church from the state. To protect the state from the church. To protect the individual’s liberty of conscience from the intrusions of both church and state. To protect individual states from interference by the federal government in governing local religious affairs. To protect society and its members from unwelcome participation in and support for religion and its morals in positive law.
  • 15. Disestablishment of Religion  Some eighteenth-century founders saw no inconsistency between having one established religion in a state yet guaranteeing liberty of conscience, free exercise, religious equality of a plurality of faiths, and a separation of church and state to all others.
  • 16. Religious Establishments  Seven of the original thirteen states still had religious establishments when the First Amendment was being drafted in 1789.  Though local practices varied in these establishment states, their governments still exercised some control over religious doctrine, governance, clergy, and other personnel.  Despite these state establishments, disestablishment movements were gaining support.
  • 17. Establishment of Religion  Establishment of religion was an ambiguous phrase in the eighteenth century – “to establish” mean “to settle firmly,” “to make firm,” “to ordain,” or “to enact.”  Disestablishment of religion, under this understanding, protected the principle of liberty of conscience by foreclosing government from coercively prescribing mandatory forms of religious belief, doctrine, and practice.
  • 18. Disestablishment of Religion  It further protected the principles of equality and pluralism by preventing government from singling out certain religious beliefs and bodies for preferential treatment.  It also served to protect the basic principles of separation of church and state.
  • 19. Interdependence of Principles  For all the diversity of opinion that pervades the constitutional convention debates, most influential writers embraced this role of “essential rights and liberties of religion.”  Eighteenth-century writers designed these principles to work together to prevent repressive religious establishments while simultaneously being mutually supportive and subservient to the highest goal of guaranteeing “the essential rights and liberties of religion” for all.