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God and the Founders


  • 20 tables
  • Page extent: 254 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.54 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521515153)

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$99.00 (P)

Did the Founding Fathers intend to build a “wall of separation” between church and state? Are public Ten Commandments displays or the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance consistent with the Founders’ understandings of religious freedom? In God and the Founders, Dr. Vincent Phillip Muñoz answers these questions by providing new, comprehensive interpretations of James Madison, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. By analyzing Madison’s, Washington’s, and Jefferson’s public documents, private writings, and political actions, Muñoz explains the Founders’ competing church-state political philosophies. Muñoz explores how Madison, Washington, and Jefferson agreed and disagreed by showing how their different principles of religious freedom would decide the Supreme Court’s most important First Amendment religion cases. God and the Founders answers the question, “What would the Founders do?” for the most pressing church-state issues of our time, including prayer in public schools, government support of religion, and legal burdens on individual’s religious conscience.


Introduction: the Founders, religious freedom, and the First Amendment's religion clauses; Part I. The Founders' Church-State Political Philosophies: 1. James Madison's principle of state noncognizance of religion; 2. George Washington on church and state: religion and the civic good; 3. Thomas Jefferson's natural rights philosophy and anticlerical politics of religious liberty; Part II. The Founders and the First Amendment Religion Clauses: 4. Madison's, Washington's, and Jefferson's church-state doctrines; 5. Madison, Washington, Jefferson and the establishment clause; 6. Madison, Washington, Jefferson and the free exercise clause; 7. The Founders v. the Supreme Court; Conclusion: the Founders and church-state jurisprudence; Appendix A: James Madison, memorial and remonstrance against religious assessments; Appendix B: Patrick Henry, a bill 'establishing a provision for teachers of the Christian religion'; Appendix C: Thomas Jefferson, a bill for establishing religious freedom in Virginia.

Prize Winner

Co-winner, 2008-2010 Hubert Morken Award for the Best Publication in Religion and Politics, American Political Science Association


“Muñoz’s analysis of Jefferson, the founder probably most consulted on questions of religious freedom and the state, especially demonstrates the difficulties inherent in trying to devise one ‘Founders’ formula’ to address church and state questions. Not only did Jefferson’s philosophy differ from those of Madison and Washington, but Muñoz shows that Jefferson’s positions sometimes appeared contradictory…This book articulates the folly of seeking out a singular philosophy of church and state from the founders.”
– Angela M. Lahr, Westminster College, Presidential Studies Quarterly

“...Muñoz's well-written and clearly-argued text will undoubtedly be beneficial to undergraduate and graduate students of church-state relations.”
The Law and Politics Book Review, Jacob M. Blosser, Texas Woman's University

“Vincent Philip Muñoz begins this fine book by pointing to a notorious scandal—that there is no evident logic to the opinions handed down over the last sixty years by the U. S. Supreme Court regarding church and state and that over time the confusion sown by the court has grown more serious. This state of affairs he traces to the fact that the Justices always cite the Founders in their opinions on this matter and get them wrong. To encourage greater clarity and thoughtfulness in their judicial deliberations, he demonstrates that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were, in fact, at odds; he encourages the Justices to make a fully-informed choice between their positions; and he indicates which choice he thinks most reasonable.”
–Paul Rahe, Hillsdale College

“An engaging, thoroughly researched, and well-written probe into the origins of one of America’s most distinctive accomplishments – religious freedom – which also happens to be one of our most contentious contemporary constitutional issues. Muñoz is one of the country's brightest young scholars; his first major book should be required reading at the Supreme Court, and indeed wherever issues of religious freedom are discussed in America today.”
–George Weigel, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC

“I know of no other book that does so good a job of probing the theoretical statements of the founders, relating their theory to their practice and then making concrete applications to specific cases and issues. Most of the literature tries to come up with a generalized ‘consensus’ founding view, which Muñoz definitively shows is misguided. Most of the other literature remains at a level of generality that fails to show the concrete implications of the founders’ (different) positions. This book definitely makes a contribution to a field on which a great deal has indeed been written.”
–Michael Zuckert, University of Notre Dame

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