The Religion Clauses of the First Amendment

The Religion Clauses of the First Amendment : Guarantees of States' Rights?

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Were the religion clauses of the First Amendment intended to protect individuals' right to religious freedom and equality or the states' traditional right to legislate on religion? This book examines all the arguments and historical evidence relating to this question, and demonstrates, contrary to the views of some scholars and Supreme Court justices, that the clauses were sought, drafted, and originally understood not as guarantees of states' rights but as normative restraints on the national government's power over religion.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 214 pages
  • 150 x 226 x 16mm | 339.99g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0739146785
  • 9780739146781

About Ellis M. West

Ellis M. West is emeritus professor of political science at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
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Review quote

This book addresses the question whether the two religion clauses, Establishment and Free Exercise, should be understood as merely 'jurisdictional,' that is, as merely precluding Congressional action over religion without conveying any substantive understanding of religious freedom. West has done a thorough job of examining the evidence and demonstrating that the 'jurisdictional' interpretation of the religion clauses fails, regardless of what one thinks about using the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to apply the Establishment Clause against the states. -- Murray Dry, Middlebury College West (emer., Univ. of Richmond) tackles the issue of whether the free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment to the US Constitution have any real meaning or whether they merely leave to the states, as opposed to the federal government, the authority to regulate religious activity (i.e., the jurisdictional interpretation). That this seems even in doubt is odd to those who have studied the clauses and the jurisprudence around them. Nonetheless, the author takes on the logic for the jurisdictional interpretation, as opposed to the substantive interpretation of the religion clauses, and examines the historical evidence, including the views of the Federalist and anti-Federalist, presented by its defenders. Ultimately he concludes that there is very little historical evidence to support the jurisdictional interpretation. Highly recommended for scholars and advanced students of public law. Summing Up: Highly recommended. CHOICE West's book is a carefully argued and persuasive rebuttal of the jurisdictional interpretation of the religion clauses and is therefore an important contribution to church-state constitutional debates. Journal of Southern History
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Table of contents

Preface Introduction Clarification of the Issue The Origin of the "Substantive" Versus "Jurisdictional" Terminology The Problem with the Word "Substantive" The Problem with the Word "Jurisdictional" Must the Religion Clauses Be Either Normative or Federalist? The Different Federalist Interpretations of the Clauses A Critical Analysis of the Federalist Interpretation An Overview of the Arguments An Assessment of the Arguments' Logic The Ratification Debate and Proposed Religion Clauses The Significance of the Debate Issues: What Kind of Laws Pertaining to Religion Did Both Federalists and Anti-federalists Want to Prohibit, and Why? The Views of the Federalists The Views of the Anti-federalists The Drafting of the Religion Clauses The Role and Views of James Madison A Summary of What Happened in the First Congress The Meaning of the Debate in the House on August 15 Changes in the Wording of the Clauses The Final Wording of the Establishment Clause The Relevance of Madison's Amendment to Protect Religious Liberty in the States Summary Were the Framers Hopelessly Divided over Government and Religion? The Case for Lack of Consensus An Assessment of the Case for Lack of Consensus The Case for the Existence of Consensus Conclusion The Early American Understanding of the Religion Clauses Comments on the Clauses during Their Ratification Interpretations of the Clauses by the Clergy Interpretations of the Clauses by Other Public Figures Commentaries on the Constitution The Widespread Belief that the Bill of Rights Applied to the States Jefferson and Madison's Interpretation of the Clauses Conclusion The Federalist Interpretation of the Religion Clauses: A Concluding Assessment
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