'A Beacon on Our Coast': The First Freedom at Home and Abroad

Providence, Spring/Summer 2018

6 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2017 Last revised: 18 Oct 2018

See all articles by Ian S. Speir

Ian S. Speir

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Date Written: April 30, 2017


This essay defends the idea of religious freedom as the "First Freedom." Not because it sits "atop" the Bill of Rights – if that were the reason, it would be little more than a “parchment barrier,” to use Madison’s famous phrase. Rather, religious freedom is "First" because it sits at the proverbial bottom, at the very bedrock of human rights – a truth borne out by history, philosophy, and practical experience. The reasons for prioritizing religious freedom help to shape, and even reframe, how we think about religious freedom abroad. The essay closes with two lessons for U.S. foreign policy.

Keywords: Constitution, Bill of Rights, Religious Freedom, Religious Liberty, International, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, First Freedom, History, Theology, Reformation, Two Kingdoms, Liberalism, Madison, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism

Suggested Citation

Speir, Ian S., 'A Beacon on Our Coast': The First Freedom at Home and Abroad (April 30, 2017). Providence, Spring/Summer 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3064709

Ian S. Speir (Contact Author)

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs ( email )

1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918-7150
United States

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