Thomas Curry argues that discussion and interpretation of the First Amendment have reached a point of deep crisis. Historical scholarship dealing with the background and interpretation of the Amendment are at an impasse, says Curry, and judicial interpretation is in a state of disarray. His purpose is to provide a new paradigm for the understanding and exploration of religious liberty. He traces much of the current difficulty to the largely unexamined assumption on the part of judges and scholars that the Amendment created a right - the right to free exercise of religion - and that the courts are the guardians of that right. In fact, however, the First Amendment is above all a limitation on government and a guarantee that the government will not impinge on the religious liberty that citizens already possess by natural right.

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