The First Amendment Has A Past

Even so, the American constitutional commitments were hardly concocted ex nihilo. They reflected a recovery, adaptation, and consolidation, under the fresh circumstances of the New World, of themes that went back centuries— of the medieval theme of libertas ecclesiae (freedom of the church) and of the more recently evolved corollary theme of freedom of the “inner church” of conscience. These were distinctively Christian notions. And the Enlightenment, far from repudiating Christianity wholesale, actually served as a conduit by which these Christian notions were imported into the creation of the new Republic. The overall American approach to religious pluralism also incorporated recognizably pagan attitudes that had been taken up in the Enlightenment, although these were less central and distinctive.

—Steven D. Smith, The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!

One comment

Comments are closed.