The Story of Welsh v. United States: Elliott Welsh's Two Religious Tests

Richard Garnett and Andrew Koppelman, eds., First Amendment Stories, Foundation Press (2011)

Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 12-34

27 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2012

Date Written: December 11, 2012

Abstract

Welsh v. United States (1970) presented the Supreme Court with the problem of whether conscientious objector status had to be extended to a person who rejected participation in war as a matter of conscience, but who was an avowed atheist. When it ruled in Welsh’s favor, the Court offered the fullest answer it has yet given to a central constitutional problem: the definition of the “religion” which is protected by the First Amendment. This article, based on extensive interviews with Elliott Welsh, tells his story for the first time. It also sheds light on the perennial problem of discerning the boundaries of the free exercise clause.

Keywords: Elliott Welsh, Religious Tests, United States, First Amendment

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K30, 39

Suggested Citation

Koppelman, Andrew M., The Story of Welsh v. United States: Elliott Welsh's Two Religious Tests (December 11, 2012). Richard Garnett and Andrew Koppelman, eds., First Amendment Stories, Foundation Press (2011) ; Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 12-34. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2189269

Andrew M. Koppelman (Contact Author)

Northwestern University School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-8431 (Phone)

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