The Religion & Culture Web Forum
"Religion and the Constitution Confounded: Treating the First Amendment as a Theological Statement"
This month Thomas J. Curry, a colonial historian and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, argues that the traditional understanding of the "wall of separation" between church and state in America is a serious misapplication of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. The essay is entitled “Religion and the Constitution Confounded: Treating the First Amendment as a Theological Statement.”
Our modern problem arises from the fact that government—the Supreme Court especially—has determined that the free exercise of religion is something guaranteed by government, that courts are to define and protect. As a result, understanding of the First Amendment is in utter disarray. Because judges assume themselves to be the protectors of religious liberty—rather than a threat to it, as the Amendment proclaims—they assume that they are the judges of what comprises that religious liberty. Thus they read the Amendment as containing substantive theological statements.
Read Bishop Curry's full essay here. Invited responses to the essay have been offered by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan and W. Clark Gilpin, both of the University of Chicago Divinity School, and may be found in the archived discussion board for this Forum (pdf).
The commentary will run through the month of September, after which it will continue to be accessible through the Web Forum archive. We invite you to read through Bishop Curry's comments and visit the discussion board to view the invited responses and post your own comments.