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Under the U.S. Constitution, the freedom of religion is protected by two separate guarantees: a prohibition on the establishment of an official church and an individual right to the “free exercise” of religion. The First Amendment thus protects not only the right of the faithful to believe as their consciences dictate, but also the right to live their lives in accordance with these beliefs.
Since 1990, the legal contours of the free exercise clause have been defined by a landmark Supreme Court case, Employment Division v. Smith, which significantly narrowed the protections afforded to people of faith. In the time since, both the legal and the cultural landscape have changed significantly, and the Court will have a chance to revisit Smith’s holding in the upcoming case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.
In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by Professor Michael McConnell of Stanford University, a constitutional scholar and former judge, for a timely discussion on the history of religious liberty in the United States and the future of the free-exercise clause.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.
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