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Religious Liberty and the American Founding: Natural Rights and the Original Meanings of the First Amendment Religion Clauses (Paperback)
An insightful rethinking of the meaning of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom.
The Founders understood religious liberty to be an inalienable natural right. Vincent Phillip Muñoz explains what this means for church-state constitutional law, uncovering what we can and cannot determine about the original meanings of the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses and constructing a natural rights jurisprudence of religious liberty.
Drawing on early state constitutions, declarations of religious freedom, Founding-era debates, and the First Amendment’s drafting record, Muñoz demonstrates that adherence to the Founders’ political philosophy would lead neither to consistently conservative nor consistently liberal results. Rather, adopting the Founders’ understanding would lead to a minimalist church-state jurisprudence that, in most cases, would return authority from the judiciary to the American people. Thorough and convincing, Religious Liberty and the American Founding is key reading for those seeking to understand the Founders’ political philosophy of religious freedom and the First Amendment Religion Clauses.
About the Author
Vincent PhillipMuñoz is the Tocqueville Associate Professor of Political Science and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame. He is the founding director of Notre Dame’s Center for Citizenship & Constitutional Government. His scholarship has been cited multiple times in church-state Supreme Court opinions, most recently by Justice Alito in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (2021) and by both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas in Espinoza v. Montana (2020).
"Vincent Phillip Muñoz’s superb new book is an indispensable guide to the issue that will soon replace abortion as the most important point of contention in our constitutional law. . . . The relationship between church and state will become the defining concern of a new era in the courts. . . . The framers wrote the religion clauses of our Constitution to set the parameters, as best they could, for a healthy and noble balance between freedom and order. Recovering the original meanings of those clauses is essential if we are to restore that balance, and Vincent Phillip Muñoz’s book gives invaluable aid in that necessary task." — Claremont Review of Books
“Muñoz’s exploration of the natural law foundations of religious liberty is highly illuminating. It is a model of how natural law analysis can be used to understand constitutional rights.”
— Philip Hamburger, Columbia Law School
“Muñoz offers a careful reconstruction of the original meaning of the religion clauses, scrupulously mapping the motives and concerns that animated the framers. He vividly recreates their world and draws surprising contemporary implications from the constitutional text they wrote—implications that pose a serious challenge to the self-styled originalists on today’s Supreme Court.”
— Andrew Koppelman, author of "Defending American Religious Neutrality"