The first Amendment to the Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 200 years later, the Supreme Court determined that a nonsectarian prayer at a high school graduation violated the Establishment Clause, and was not protected under the Free Exercise Clause. It was a puzzling decision for those who understood the centrality of religion to public life throughout American history.

University of Chicago Law professor Michael W. McConnell, later a federal judge, was among the puzzled. He endeavored to trace the impulse to turn “freedom of religion” into “freedom from religion” in the public square. AEI Visiting Fellow and religious freedom expert Ramesh Ponnuru joins the podcast to discuss McConnell’s argument, First Amendment Jurisprudence since the early 1990s, and ongoing threats to religious life in America today.

This lecture was originally delivered in September 1992.

Listen to the full lecture here.


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