The Wheatley Institution

Religious Liberty: Essays on the First Amendment

October 20, 2016 | The Wheatley Institution

Religious liberty is becoming an increasingly polarized issue in modern society. Navigating the conversation about religious liberty, as well as other First Amendment rights, can be difficult without the proper framework. The Wheatley Institution’s newest publication, Religious Liberty: Essays on the First Amendment, is designed to help citizens answer some of the fundamentally difficult questions about the First Amendment.

Religious Liberty: Essays on the First Amendment is a collection of essays from leading thinkers on why Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience are so vital to our society. It is the third in a series of books published in the last four years by the Wheatley Institution. The newest publication addresses a narrower topic than the first two publications, The American Founding: Its Intellectual and Moral Framework (2012) and Scientism: The New Orthodoxy (2015), which deal with civic virtue on a larger scale.

The editors chose to compile a book specifically tailored to address modern questions regarding the role and separation of Church and State. Dr. Richard Williams, Founding Director of the Wheatley Institution and co-editor of Religious Liberty, asserts that “the issue of religious liberty has rather abruptly been forced into the center of controversies over a number of political and moral issues…We wanted to produce a book that could contribute positively to the social, cultural, and moral discourse surrounding these issues.” One review echoed this sentiment, noting that “the significance of the volume lies in the collection of some of the world’s best thinkers and writers of religious liberty in one book.”

For the most part, the essays in this newest publication “defend religious liberty as ‘unalienable’”, according to Dr. Williams. Dr. Daniel Robinson, second co-editor of and contributor to the collection, adds, “we hope this volume tells the story [of the First Amendment] in terms intelligible to today’s citizens.” This hope may well be realized, as a second review stated, “If I were teaching a course or seminar devoted either generally to the First Amendment or specifically to the Religion clauses, I would adopt this collection of essays.”

According to Dr. Robinson, by telling the story of the first amendment through these essays, the authors and editors of this volume demonstrate that “the pedigree of the First Amendment, as well as its early drafts, begins with religious liberty.” One thread woven into each of the essays is the idea that “the liberty extended to speech and the press arises from this more fundamental freedom of conscience.”

Essay titles include "Two Concepts of Liberty" by Robert P. George, "The Creation and Reconstruction of the First Amendment" by Akhil Reed Amar, "Religious Freedom in the World Today" by Roger Scruton, and many others. Each essay explores the intellectual and philosophical roots and applications of religious liberty, as well as the modern conversation surrounding freedom of conscience and free exercise of religion.

Other authors and contributors to this volume include Hadley Arkes, Gerard V. Bradley, Michael P. Moreland, Brett G. Scharffs, and Michael Novak.

Religious Liberty: Essays on the First Amendment is available now from the Cambridge University Press.

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