Chapter

The First Federal Congress and the Formation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment

Carl H. Esbeck

in No Establishment of Religion

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199860371
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950164 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199860371.003.0008
The First Federal Congress and the Formation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment

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This chapter offers a detailed study of the debates in the First Congress leading to the adoption of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. Arguing that the court in Everson v. Board of Education disproportionately focused on the Virginia assessment controversy, it argues that a close reading can help explain what is and is not meant by the Establishment Clause. The chapter concludes that the principal goal of the religion clauses was to restrict the power of the Federal Government and not to promote any particular doctrine of church-state relations. The chapter questions several competing interpretations of the Establishment Clause, including “specific federalism,” whether it codifies any existing right, or protects only conscience.

Keywords: Establishment Clause; First Congress; specific federalism; federal power; jurisdictional limitation

Chapter.  19698 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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