A Madisonian Vision of Religious Liberty
7 Faulkner L. Rev. 19 (2015)
44 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2016
Date Written: 2015
James Madison thought and wrote a great deal about issues of religious liberty. Some of his stances are well-known, while others ought to be better known. His theory of religious liberty resists easy categorization by the partisans in our current debates over church and state. While Madison himself claimed to stand for “total separation” of religion and government, his stances differed in important ways from those of many of today’s “strict separationists.” At the same time, he firmly rejected state attempts to support religious truths and practices — even broad “Judeo-Christian” ones — as well as state attempts to acknowledge the privileged place of religion in our history and culture. This invited essay, written for the 2015 Faulkner Law Review Symposium on “The Meaning of Religious Liberty in the Anglo-American Tradition,” summarizes and documents Madison’s understanding of religious liberty, with specific reference to concepts such as religious toleration, natural rights of conscience, religious exemptions in law, and establishments of religion. Along the way, the essay draws attention to points of agreement and disagreement between Madison and John Locke.
Keywords: James Madison, John Locke, Religious Liberty, First Amendment, Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause, Disestablishment, Church and State, Religious Accommodations
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