Podcasts | Constitutionally Speaking

Episode 30: The Religion Clauses

(Patrick Semansky/Reuters)

In this episode, the guys discuss the First Amendment “Religion Clauses”, which prohibit the establishment of a national church and guarantee the right to free exercise of religion. They spend some time looking at Madison’s initial draft of the amendment and how Congress simplified it in the text that was ultimately ratified, leading some contemporary readers to incorrectly see the Founders as drawing a high distinction between religious and political activities. Madison is really pushing two larger ideas. First, he’s effectively outlawing prior restraints by the federal government when it comes to the pulpit and the press. Second, he’s trying to spark pluralism, which he views as generative of greater energy and, as a result, greater creativity. Finally, the guys wrap up breaking down the historical meaning of establishmentarianism and why the free exercise clause was just intuitive to early Americans.

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