Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Contending originalisms

MOJ’s Rob Vischer calls our attention to this typically one-sided piece by the University of Chicago’s Geoffrey Stone, who trots out much of the evidence for the heteodoxy of many of the Founders. But as I suggested here and here, saying that the Founders were men of the Enlightenment doesn’t make them men of the radical Enlightenment, dedicated to a buck naked public square. Far from it, as even the carefully-worded First Amendment (leaving intact state establishments) makes clear. Stone of course overlooks one obvious reference to religion in the Constitution (the way the date is phrased) and doesn’t mention the Northwest Ordinance, which provided public support for schools that were to teach "religion and morality."

But a public square friendly to religion and religious expression isn’t the same as a Christian nation. There are all sorts of grounds for accommodation, cooperation, and support without there being any basis for establishment in the old-fashioned sense (which is the only sense we ought to care about).

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The problem is that some of the most heterodox are some of the most famous. Franklin, Jefferson, +/- Washington. Mel Bradford's A Worthy Company (now republished under another name I believe) is a good remedy for the "all the Founder's were Deists" assertion.

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