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The Constitution of Religious Freedom
God, Politics, and the First Amendment

By Dennis J. Goldford

The Constitution of Religious Freedom
Hardback, 270 pages $29.95
Published: 1st March 2012
ISBN: 9781602584198
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Political Science, Law & Religion, Religion & Politics

In a time when the question of American religious identity underlies much political conversation that fills the public square, Dennis Goldford directs his readers to consider the First Amendment. The founding fathers' words, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," are the constitutional means of ensuring, however imperfectly, the American freedom to stand for something sacred. In his analysis, Goldford ably demonstrates that the very nature of these religion clauses establishes protection not for religion but for religious freedom. The Constitution of Religious Freedom argues that religious identity inheres not in the nation, but in the individual citizen.


1. Constitutional Fundamentals

2. Religious Minorities, Religious Freedom, and Religion

3. Conventional vs. Radical Establishment Clause Jurisprudence

4. Orthodoxy and Neutrality

5. The Concept of Coercion in Establishment Clause Jurisprudence

6. The Concept of Position Taking in Establishment Clause Jurisprudence

7. The Theoretical Core of the Establishment Clause: The Secularity Principle


"In this tightly reasoned but accessible volume, Goldford exposes the mistaken assumption that the American government espouses a religious mission rather than champions a commitment to religious freedom. The Constitution of Religious Freedom should be required reading for the policymakers and policy activists who shape the role of religion in American political life."

—Richard A. Brisbin, Jr., Professor of Political Science, West Virginia University

"This is an important book… I have promised myself to read it annually, especially just before the semesters I teach my church-state class. I would recommend it to any who have such a privilege and responsibility to do the same.”

—Ronald B. Flowers, Texas Christian University, Journal of Church and State (2013,55:2)

"Goldford's robust defense of the Religion Clauses as protecting religious freedom—and not religion itself—is a welcome antidote to conservative scholars and advocates."

—Aram Schvey, Policy Council at the center for Reproductive Rights, Conscience (2013,34:1)

“…Goldford has produced a lively and well-considered book on a vitally important topic; his point that the First Amendment protects religious freedom and not religion is an important and helpful distinction.

—Randall Balmer, Political Science Quarterly (Summer 2014), Dartmouth College

"The Constitution of Religious Freedom is an important book. In a time where political figures from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney to Nikki Haley have been openly attacked for their supposedly non-Christian religious beliefs, Goldford's timing is excellent."

—Evan Gerstmann, Professor of Political Science and Law, Loyola Marymount University

"Goldford's book is logically and compellingly argued. He fearlessly and thoughtfully examines one of the most controversial—often blithely assumed and curiously dismissed—propositions in American politics today—that the United States is a Christian nation. Indeed, Goldford's refutation of this idea is devastating, yet always respectful and erudite."

—Jessie Hill, Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

"The Constitution of Religious Freedom takes a unique approach to interpreting the appropriate place and role of religious freedom in the United States. Goldford argues, in a clear and accessible manner, that the First Amendment's religion clauses protect religious freedom rather than religion writ large. Scholars and students alike will learn from the argument presented in this important new book."

—Laura R. Olson, Professor of Political Science, Clemson University

“… [The Constitution of Religious Freedom] is a powerful political science work on the necessity of a separationist understanding of the First Amendment.”

—John Ragosta, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Politics and Religion (6:4)

Dennis J. Goldford is Professor of Politics at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The author of The American Constitution and the Debate Over Originalism and co-author of The Iowa Precinct Caucuses: The Making of a Media Event (Third Edition), Goldford has contributed election cycle political analysis to more than eighty major newspapers, magazines, or wire services in the United States, Canada, Japan, and many European and Eastern European countries. He lives in Clive, Iowa.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 270 pages
 9in x 6in

  POL000000, POL022000, REL084000
 Baylor University Press

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