Freedom Of Religion: The Establishment Clause Of The Constitution

1924 words - 8 pages

According to Kathleen Sullivan, the unstated corollary of the Establishment Clause is the affirmative creation of a secular civil order. This in her view prohibits the government from coercing, endorsing and even acknowledging the religious beliefs of American citizens. Sullivan feels that the correct baseline for religious liberty should be consistent with a secular public sphere. Sullivan feels that throughout the history of the court its rulings have been too permissive with respect to the Establishment Clause and to restrictive with respect to the Free Exercise Clause. Sullivan feels that the court should reverse its stance on both issues. After reading Sullivan's article and by taking into account other articles and conversations we have had in class I agree with Sullivan's assessment with one exception. I feel that although the reins of the Free Exercise Clause need to loosened by the court too some degree, doing so could lead to a conflict between Free Exercise of minority religions and the commonly accepted practices of mainstream religions, the majorities view of morality and neutral laws of the legislature. Although it would seem that the Free Exercise Clause was meant exactly to protect minority religions from these factions I feel there are potential problems that could arise by allowing totally unreined free exercise of religion.I agree with Sullivan's initial assertion that the unstated corollary of the Establishment Clause is a creation of a secular civil order. Although Sullivan's article is and in depth assessment of the Establishment Cause and what it should mean and how it should be applied I feel that she takes for granted and assumes that the Establishment Clause creates a secular civil order. She seems to just assume as fact that the intention of the founding fathers was to create the secular division of religion and government and that the constitution is a living document. This may be why she uses several past Supreme Court cases to exemplify her views instead of trying to determine the intent of the founding fathers. I do agree with this assessment and like Sullivan I believe the constitution is a living document however I think it is important to note readers that share the views that the constitution should be strictly interpreted may argue against assuming that The Establishment Clause creates a secular civil order.It seems that our founding fathers had the foresight to see the long-term implications of religious oppression and the need for separation of church and state. No one made this clearer that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. It was Madison arguing in "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" about the dangers of state sponsoring religion in any form. Thomas Jefferson in his response letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, which sent a letter congratulating him on his election victory in 1800, used the metaphor that a wall between church and state was erected by the establishment clause....

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