Andy G. Olree (Faulkner U. – Jones School of Law) has posted “Pride Ignorance and Knavery”: James Madison’s Formative Experiences with Religious Establishments. The abstract follows.
Judicial interpretations of the First Amendment’s religion clauses have purported to rely heavily on the history of the American Founding era. Today, it seems no Founder carries more weight in religion clause opinions than James Madison, a seminal figure the Supreme Court has repeatedly credited as “the leading architect of the religion clauses of the First Amendment”—most recently in January 2012, as it relied heavily on Madison’s views in deciding the Hosanna-Tabor case. But courts citing Madison have tended to focus on the short period beginning with his “Memorial and Remonstrance” in 1785 and ending with the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791. Less frequently, a court might refer to particular subsequent events or writings from Madison’s life. But to this point, both scholars and judges have paid relatively little attention to his early, formative years, the years leading to his interest in church-state issues and his entry into politics. This Article posits that his early experiences with the Anglican religious establishment in colonial Virginia played an instrumental role in shaping his lifelong thought on church and state, in particular his interest in religious liberty and his opposition to religious establishments, religious persecution, and laws that strayed into the sphere of religion. Accordingly, the Article examines Madison’s formative experiences with religious establishments in order to provide a fuller understanding of his views of the natural right of religious liberty.