Review Of "God And The Founders: Madison, Washington, And Jefferson" By V. P. Muñoz

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Muñoz (Notre Dame) argues that Supreme Court decisions on religion that have cited the Founding Fathers have ignored the complexity of their views. First, he carefully analyzes the writings and political actions on religion of Madison, Washington, and Jefferson, chosen because of their important roles in establishing and defending religious liberty and separation of church and state. Madison favored nonrecognition of religion by the state, Washington advocated supporting religion insofar as it served to inculcate personal morality and civic virtue, and Jefferson sought freedom of opinion but also wanted to weaken the clergy's power and to foster a rational religion undermining orthodox Christianity. Muñoz then uses the Founders' positions to analyze post-1940 Court rulings on establishment and free-exercise cases, providing a chart to illustrate how individual justices voted. Finally, he shows the weaknesses in the Founders' perspectives and in recent jurisprudence and offers as a doctrine with many advantages a modified Madisonian "No legal privileges, no legal penalties." This is an important book; it is well researched and intelligently argued and has important public policy implications. This reviewer's two reservations are that Virginians do not represent all the Founding Fathers, and "profundity" as a test may not represent the politics of religious liberty. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Especially law schools/theological seminaries; upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty.


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