The Godless Constitution

Address the following questions concerning the question of whether the U.S. Constitution is secularist or does it allow for a degree of intermingling between the religious and governmental sphere. The paper is to be approximately 10-12 pages in length (double spaced) except for long quotations (4 lines or more). You may use any of the materials covered in the course. Any footnote style is acceptable. Tentatively the paper is due at the end of the final examination period. We will be more exact when the registrar gives us a date for submission of grades but aim for the last week in December. Was the Constitution “godless”? Historian Isaac Kramnick and law professor John Witte present contrasting views. Walter Berns (“Constitutionalism and the Religious Problem”) places the issue of the secular versus the religious bases of the American Founding in the context of the battle between the “ancients and moderns” in political philosophy. Explain these perspectives and some of the principal thinkers involved. Berns and Kramnick focus on Locke. Present Locke’s basic position on role of religion in society. Berns ties Locke’s solution to the commercial republic. Explain its bearing on the religious problem. What types of evidence does Kramnick marshal to support his secularist reading of the Constitution? Develop the thought of Jefferson and Madison in this regard. How does Witte’s Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment (“The First Amendment Religion Clauses”) counter Kramnick’s secularist interpretation? Develop his argument. Include a note on federalism, incorporation, and the state constitutional experience your essay. How does the church-issue reverberate in contemporary American constitutional law? How do the Virginians (Madison and Jefferson loom so large in American Constitutional Law? Compare Hugo Black’s majority opinion in Everson v. Board of Eduction (1947) with Chief Justice Rehnquist’s dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree (1985) on the religion clauses of the First Amendment and their intellectual foundations and meaning. Chapters 8 and 9 in Fowler et al. might be useful here.