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A Fixed Meaning of 'Religion' in the First Amendment

41 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2016  

Ethan Blevins

Pacific Legal Foundation

Date Written: July 13, 2016


A Fixed Meaning of 'Religion' in the First Amendment is one of very few attempts in First Amendment literature to advocate for a fixed meaning of "religion" in the First Amendment based on original intent and understanding. Despite its seeming importance as a threshold issue, the Supreme Court has never clearly defined this key word. This article's novel definition focuses on the worship of supernatural agents. The definition aims to remain true to the original understanding and intent behind the term while creating a workable test for a pluralistic society. The article analyzes and criticizes the major scholarship proposing a definition and then offers a novel approach. While the debate may seem initially like an academic one, defining religion is key to determining the nature and scope of religious freedom.

Keywords: Religious Liberty, religious freedom, free exercise, First Amendment, constitutional law

Suggested Citation

Blevins, Ethan, A Fixed Meaning of 'Religion' in the First Amendment (July 13, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Ethan Blevins (Contact Author)

Pacific Legal Foundation ( email )

930 G Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
United States

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