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God and the Founders: Madison, Washington, and Jefferson 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521515153
ISBN-10: 0521515157
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Editorial Reviews


"Muñoz's analysis of Jefferson, the founder probably most consulted on questions of religious freedom and the state, especially demonstrates the difficulties inherent in trying to devise one 'Founders' formula' to address church and state questions. Not only did Jefferson's philosophy differ from those of Madison and Washington, but Muñoz shows that Jefferson's positions sometimes appeared contradictory...This book articulates the folly of seeking out a singular philosophy of church and state from the founders."
- Angela M. Lahr, Westminster College, Presidential Studies Quarterly

"...Muñoz's well-written and clearly-argued text will undoubtedly be beneficial to undergraduate and graduate students of church-state relations."
- The Law and Politics Book Review, Jacob M. Blosser, Texas Woman's University

"Vincent Philip Muñoz begins this fine book by pointing to a notorious scandal-that there is no evident logic to the opinions handed down over the last sixty years by the U. S. Supreme Court regarding church and state and that over time the confusion sown by the court has grown more serious. This state of affairs he traces to the fact that the Justices always cite the Founders in their opinions on this matter and get them wrong. To encourage greater clarity and thoughtfulness in their judicial deliberations, he demonstrates that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were, in fact, at odds; he encourages the Justices to make a fully-informed choice between their positions; and he indicates which choice he thinks most reasonable."
-Paul Rahe, Hillsdale College

"An engaging, thoroughly researched, and well-written probe into the origins of one of America's most distinctive accomplishments - religious freedom - which also happens to be one of our most contentious contemporary constitutional issues. Muñoz is one of the country's brightest young scholars; his first major book should be required reading at the Supreme Court, and indeed wherever issues of religious freedom are discussed in America today."
-George Weigel, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC

"I know of no other book that does so good a job of probing the theoretical statements of the founders, relating their theory to their practice and then making concrete applications to specific cases and issues. Most of the literature tries to come up with a generalized 'consensus' founding view, which Muñoz definitively shows is misguided. Most of the other literature remains at a level of generality that fails to show the concrete implications of the founders' (different) positions. This book definitely makes a contribution to a field on which a great deal has indeed been written."
-Michael Zuckert, University of Notre Dame

Book Description

Vincent Phillip Muñoz explains the Founders' competing church-state political philosophies by exploring Madison's, Washington's, and Jefferson's public documents, private writings, and political actions. God and the Founders answers the question, "What would the Founders do?" for the most pressing church-state issues of our time, including prayer in public schools, government support of religion, and legal burdens on individual's religious conscience.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (October 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521515157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521515153
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,883,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Munoz starts with an opening that explains why he will focus on three specific Founders as the touchstones for understanding the intent of the Constitution regarding the relationship between Church and State. He proceeds to discussing in depth each one of those Founders regarding his beliefs about the matter. He is honest regarding each of them. For example, he documents that Thomas Jefferson believed that fundamentalist religion threatened democracy by imposing a constitution, the biblical laws, above this nation's Constitution, and that Jefferson responded to this threat both by asserting that non-theocratic interpretations of the Bible should be encouraged, and by being vigilant to keep clerics away from politics. Munoz also documents that, on the opposite side, George Washington believed that morality cannot exist without religion, and that a non-fundamentalist or non-theocratic interpretation of the Bible should be encouraged, but that no significant threat to democracy was posed by the clergy. James Madison was in between, concerned above all to prevent the majority religion from taxing or otherwise politically imposing itself upon the public including non-members, and he shared this view of a threat from clergy with Jefferson; but he also believed that "the Supreme Lawgiver of the Universe" and "the light of Christianity" were basic to morality; and so he shared that conviction with Washington. Munoz documents, regarding Church-State in America, that liberal Christianity was the view of the Founders, and that they opposed both fundamentalist Christianity and atheism, but that they also believed that the State (or government) had no more of a right to impose itself against either theists or atheists than either group did against the State.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
A great introduction for those who lump "the Founders" together when debating religious liberty and the constitution. Not all the Founders were created equal, be it Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, or George Washington. The author does a wonderful job of lifting word after word from the mouths of many of these great men without using "contextual clues" as to what is to be meant by their actions. An easy yet thought provoking read I would suggest to all those interested in America's founding.
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Format: Hardcover
I am perplexed by Muñoz's claim (pp. 54-56) that Washington's Farewell Address contains a "definitive political statement" in "defense of government support of religion." As far as I can see, it contains nothing of the sort. Washington says that the "virtue or morality" of citizens is necessary for democracy, and he also thinks that morality depends on religion, so it would be reasonable to conclude that he thinks that religion is a *good thing*, but it does not follow that he thinks it is government's business to support religion. (Good government might well depend on qualities of individuals that are properly left up to them, not the business of government, to control.) It is telling that Washington goes on to say, "Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge" (not "Therefore, promote religion").

When Washington says that "the mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and to cherish" religion and morality, it is plausible to understand him to be talking about private or personal views, not (as Muñoz would have it) "the propriety of governmental support" (p. 54). I don't see anything in the Farewell Address to support the claim that Washington "endorses the use of religion for political purposes" (p. 56).

This makes me wonder how reliable the rest of the book is. However, it clearly does provide much valuable information about the issues and controversies, as well as references to a wider literature.
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Format: Hardcover
The issue isn't whether the Founders supported or opposed religion. The issue is what role they thought government should have in religion, and what role religion should have in government. Given that the term "Founders" should properly include every adult living from 1776 to 1791 (Declaration of Independence to Bill of Rights) who in anyway participated in the Revolutionary War, the fight for Independence, and the adoption of the Constitution, trying to make generalized statements about "their views" is almost impossible.

What's not impossible is to read the Constitution. Nowhere does its legal provisions mention any god, or religion. A deliberate omission. Furthermore, the only place religion is mentioned is in connection with the "Three No's": no religious test for public office (Art. 1, Sec. 3), no establishment of religion and no prohibiting the free exercise thereof (First Amendment). I'd say that makes a pretty convincing case that religion is to be left to "the private sector", and that government should keep its hands off, as far as possible.

So the real question isn't whether Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, or Washington (etc.) were religious, but what they thought the government should do about it. The Constitution provides the only authoritative answer.
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