Church, State, and Original Intent

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This provocative book shows how the United States Supreme Court has used constitutional history in church-state cases. Donald L. Drakeman describes the ways in which the justices have portrayed the Framers’ actions in a light favoring their own views about how church and state should be separated. He then marshals the historical evidence, leading to a surprising conclusion about the original meaning of the First Amendment’s establishment clause: the framers originally intended the establishment clause only as a prohibition against a single national church. In showing how conventional interpretations have gone astray, he casts light on the close relationship between religion and government in America and brings to life a fascinating parade of church-state constitutional controversies from the Founding Era to the present.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In his splendid new book, Donald Drakeman storms into the breach once more with the provocative thesis that the Supreme Court’s rendition of the establishment clause has largely been a story of creation-myth making….Drakeman goes further, arguing that the interpretive schools of accommodationist nonpreferentialism, strict separationism, and enhanced federalist jurisdictionalism each misunderstand the establishment clause. So he invites us to accompany him on an investigation, as objective as possible, of the historical record, which he argues indicates that the establishment clause was originally understood simply to forbid the establishment of a national church….If in the beginning we were promised an investigation, we actually end up with a tour de force—an insightful discussion of landmark cases and a lucid, disinterested narrative of the historical materials.”
– Kody W. Cooper, Review of Politics

“To a crowded field of scholarship Don Drakeman has contributed a real gem. His Church, State, and Original Intent is expertly researched. Drakeman has found some new and intriguing clues to the original understanding of the Religion Clauses. He also offers fresh and persuasive interpretations of familiar evidence. And the book is a great read; Drakeman is a gifted story-teller.”
-Gerard Bradley, University of Notre Dame

“No provision of the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court has said, is more illuminated by its generating history than the First Amendment prohibition on laws ‘respecting an establishment of religion.’ Without a partisan agenda, Donald L. Drakeman thoughtfully, thoroughly, and expertly revisits the original meaning of the prohibition on a national establishment, pursuing new lines of inquiry, delving into long forgotten or ignored evidence, and challenging long-held assumptions. He casts new light on the historians and historical accounts that have influenced the Court’s interpretation of the constitutional provisions governing church-state relationships. Church, State, and Original Intent is indispensable reading for anyone interested in religious liberty or church-state relations in the American experience.”
-Daniel L. Dreisbach, American University and author of Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State

“For too long, an incomplete narrative has shaped – and misshaped – the Supreme Court’s doctrines and our public conversations about the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. In this book, Donald Drakeman provides a timely and thorough corrective to that narrative. He carefully scrapes away the political agendas, ideological commitments, and ‘law office history’ that have too often obscured from view the Clause’s original meaning. Drakeman’s project, therefore, is both provocative and liberating: He unsettles our many unfounded assumptions and, by helping us to see the First Amendment clearly and in context, he challenges us to re-think that provision’s place in our continuing debates about the proper relationship between church and state.”
-Richard W. Garnett, University of Notre Dame Law School

“This devastating critique of the Supreme Court’s use of history should be read by everyone concerned with religious freedom in particular and jurisprudence in general. Through meticulous original research, Drakeman exposes the anti-Catholic foundation of the Court’s ‘wall of separation’ between church and state. His provocative account of the Court’s seminal church-state decisions and his thoughtful interpretation of the Establishment Clause’s original meaning will engage church-state scholars and enlighten all those interested in American constitutional history.”
-Vincent Phillip Muñoz, University of Notre Dame

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521119184
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2009
  • Pages: 382
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald L. Drakeman is a Lecturer in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. He is the author of Church-State Constitutional Issues, and his writings have appeared in Constitutional Commentary, Journal of Church and State, American Journal of Legal History, The Christian Century, Religion and American Culture and several law reviews. He is also co-editor of Church and State in American History. He has served as legal counsel for a coalition of religious organizations acting as friends of the Court in federal church-state litigation, and he has been a member of the Religious Liberty Committee of the National Council of Churches and the Civil Rights Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He is a co-founder and Chairman of the Advisory Council of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University and a former co-chair of the Advisory Council for Princeton's Department of Religion.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction; 2. Reynolds: the historical construction of constitutional reality; 3. Everson: a case of premeditated law office history; 4. The battle for the historical high ground; 5. Original meanings: where is the historical highground?; 6. Incorporating originalism; 7. Conclusion.

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