Church and State in the Founding-Era State Constitutions
American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture, Vol. 4 (Winter 2015)
38 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 28, 2015
An enormous effort has been dedicated to uncovering the original meaning of the First Amendment’s religion clauses, but, surprisingly, little research has been directed toward the Founding-era state constitutions on church and state. This article aims to open a field of inquiry by making the church-state provisions of the Founding-era state constitutions more accessible. It begins with a consideration of the distinction between the state declarations of rights and the state constitutions and the interpretive challenge this distinction poses. I then identify, categorize, and interpret the relevant church-state provisions of the Founding-era state declarations of rights and constitutions. The article concludes with a discussion of how a deeper knowledge of the Founding-era state church-state provisions might shed light on the original meaning of the First Amendment’s religion clauses, and it reveals the probable errors of particular originalist arguments made by leading scholars and Supreme Court justices.
Keywords: Religious Liberty, State Constitutions, First Amendment
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