Francis J. Beckwith

Francis J. Beckwith, Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University, is the 2016-2017 Visiting Professor of Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His latest book, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (Cambridge University Press), received the American Academy of Religion's 2016 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in the category of Constructive-Reflective Studies.

Religious Liberty After John Locke

The central point of Michael Zuckert’s Liberty Forum essay is that contemporary disputes about religious liberty should not come as a surprise, since they are the result of three contrary, though sometimes overlapping, understandings of religious liberty that have been found in the body politic in differing degrees since the American Founding. He classifies these positions as “freedom-of-religion,” “freedom-for-religion,” and “freedom-from religion.” For this reason, Zuckert argues, there is no “original understanding” of religious liberty to which one can appeal to resolve these current conflicts. Zuckert, it seems to me, is largely correct in his religious liberty taxonomy as an account…

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More Responses

The Paradox of Jefferson’s “Establishment of Religious Liberty” and the Problem of the Administrative State

Michael Zuckert’s Liberty Forum essay is a great introduction to religious liberty as it is discussed in America today, and provides a useful analytical framework to understand the tensions and controversies we face with regard to religious liberty, and perhaps liberty more generally. He strikes me as on the mark in his conclusion that religious…

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Religious Freedom Can Now Mean Only: Freedom for Religion

Michael Zuckert’s Liberty Forum essay does an excellent job of bringing to light ambiguities and tensions that have always been present in the notion of religious freedom. He is certainly right that there is no Pure Theory of Religious Freedom, which, if only we can grasp it and make it universally accepted, would resolve all…

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Michael Zuckert Responds to His Critics

The first two responses to my Liberty Forum essay illustrate well that political theory is (still) not an exact science. Francis Beckwith finds my “religious liberty taxonomy” to be “largely correct . . . as an account of the history of America’s church/state jurisprudence,” but he doubts that my classification is as adequate for understanding…

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Religious Belief, Religious Liberty, and the Art of Taking Rites Seriously

A row of Church pews

Some years ago at the law school at Texas Tech University, I delivered a lecture on the question of whether the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) in public schools would violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. During the question and answer session afterward, a professor from one of the university’s science departments exclaimed: “Your talk consists of cleverly disguised religious arguments.” To which I immediately replied, “I’m relieved. I was afraid you were going to accuse me of making bad arguments.”

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