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Copyright (c) 1996 Southern Methodist University
SMU Law Review

COMMENT: Take Care of Me When I Am Dead: An Examination of American Church-State Development and the Future of American Religious Liberty

July / August, 1996

49 SMU L. Rev. 1579


Mark G. Valencia


Among those I call the great men of the world are Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and various others who participated in formulating the ideas behind the First Amendment for this country and in writing it... The First Amendment is truly the heart of the Bill of Rights. The Framers balanced its freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition against the needs of a powerful central government, and decided that in thosefreedoms lies this nation's only true security. They were not afraid for men to be free. We should not be. 1


CHURCH-state relations have proved to be one of the more emotional, controversial, and confusing issues in American society. From colonial establishments of religions, 2 to the First Amendment prohibition against establishment and guarantee of free exercise, 3 to contemporary calls for a pseudo-establishment, 4 the American people have been deeply divided over religion and its place in public life. The issue has been complicated by the polarizing politicizing of religion. Political parties have seized the Christian faith, made Christian tenets a part of party platforms, 5 and painted a portrait of the Founding Fathers as devout Christians 6 who were hostile to church-state separation.

Unfortunately, the religious liberty philosophy of the Founding Fathers, the history of American church-state relations, and the legislative intent of the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses have been clouded by partisan bickering. The political debate has pushed both sides to the fringes of the argument, ...
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