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Columbia Law School

Supreme Court of the United States

2004

Virginia Law Review

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Full-Text Articles in Law

More Is Less, Philip A. Hamburger Jan 2004

More Is Less, Philip A. Hamburger

Faculty Scholarship

Is the First Amendment's right of free exercise of religion conditional upon government interests? Many eighteenth-century Americans said it was utterly unconditional. For example, James Madison and numerous contemporaries declared in 1785 that "the right of every man to exercise ['Religion'] ... is in its nature an unalienable right" and "therefore that in matters of Religion, no mans right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society." In contrast, during the past forty years, the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly conditioned the right of free exercise on compelling government interests. The Court not merely qualifies the practice of the ...