Over the years, the Establishment Clause has become encrusted with various sorts of new meanings and applications. I do not say this as a criticism (though I do think that some applications are regrettable) but merely as a description of the evolution of constitutional law as time has passed. Those who are interested in a thorough and superb treatment of the original meaning of the Establishment Clause (and the original intentions of the framers, which is a different issue than the original meaning) will very much enjoy Donald L. Drakeman’s excellent Church, State, and Original Intent (CUP 2009), in which Drakeman uncovers evidence that the Establishment Clause was meant originally to do nothing more than forbid the establishment of a national church (as in England). The publisher’s description follows. — MOD
This provocative book shows how the United States Supreme Court has used constitutional history in church-state cases. Donald L. Drakeman describes the ways in which the justices have portrayed the Framers’ actions in a light favoring their own views about how church and state should be separated. He then marshals the historical evidence, leading to a surprising conclusion about the original meaning of the First Amendment’s establishment clause: the framers originally intended the establishment clause only as a prohibition against a single national church. In showing how conventional interpretations have gone astray, he casts light on the close relationship between religion and government in America and brings to life a fascinating parade of church-state constitutional controversies from the Founding Era to the present.