Constitution 201: Case Study—Religious Liberty in the Administrative State

This lesson is taught by Dr. Thomas West, the Paul & Dawn Potter Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College.  Dr. West has taught at Hillsdale since 2011, and from 1974-2011 at the University of Dallas.  His courses on American politics include the U.S. Constitution, civil rights, foreign policy, and the political thought of the American Founding.  He also teaches political philosophy, with a focus on Aquinas, Locke, and Hobbes.  Dr. West is a Senior Fellow at Claremont Institute, where he instructs in the Institute’s Publius and Lincoln fellows summer program.  He is the author of “Vindicating the Founders:  Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America.”  Dr. West received his BA from Cornell University, and his PhD from Claremont Graduate University. The Founders believed religious liberty to be the most important single unalienable right because the most crucial outcome of life is the ultimate destiny of the soul, the relation between man and his conscientious understanding of God.  When government stands in the way, it is doing the very worst thing it can do.  The more common understanding in those times in almost all the nations was that government should oppose any religion not sanctioned by that government.  Even in the colonies, there were cases of religious repression.  In 1774, Baptists were imprisoned in Virginia for preaching their faith without a government issued license.  Situations like this offended the advocates of religious liberty, such as Jefferson and Madison.  When Virginia issued its own Declaration of Independence in 1776, protection of religious liberty was an important guarantee. Fast forward to today.  Obamacare mandates that employees must be provided...

A New Year for All: Special Thoughts on Liberty and Happiness

On January first and for a few days thereafter every year the conventional greeting will be “Happy New Year”. It seems to me that such a greeting is a bit vacant of meaning. To many it is simply a way to fill uncomfortable silence. Like the check-out person at the grocery store who always says to you, “Have a Good Day” after she finishes the transaction and you are leaving. Strange as it may seem to some of you, such a greeting was rare, if used at all, 50-60 years ago. I sometimes wonder if the phrase is part of a plot to induce helplessness in the public at large. I do not think Ben Franklin would like it at all. What if it was changed to something that was both true and thought provoking? Like this: ” I hope you make this New Year the best one you ever had”. I already know the answer (at least 90% of the time). There will be a surprised look that will quickly change to a thoughtful processing one followed right away by a smile and “I will try!” To which I always reply; “I wish you great success” Let’s now have a more detailed look at this from the standpoint of public policy/practice and your and my impact on it. First, “You have a good day or a Happy New Year” implies that the day or year is somehow in charge of you. Yet, unless you are brain impaired, every event of the day causes a thoughtful or thoughtless reaction by you. If it is negative like “it is raining...