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Equal protection, Free exercise, Group rights, Religious liberty, Religion clause jurisprudence


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Constitutional Law | First Amendment | Fourteenth Amendment | Legal History | Religion Law


Contrary to critics of the Supreme Court's current equal protection approach to religious liberty, this Article contends that, from the very first federal free exercise cases, the Equal Protection and Free Exercise Clauses have been mutually intertwined. The seeds of an equal protection analysis of free exercise were, indeed, planted even before the Fourteenth Amendment within the constitutional jurisprudence of the several states. Furthermore, this Article argues, equal protection approaches should not be uniformly disparaged. Rather, the drawbacks that commentators have observed result largely from the Supreme Court's application of an inadequate version of equal protection. By ignoring the lessons that the Fourteenth Amendment taught about the nature of group classification and instead emphasizing the individual, the current approach downplays free exercise claims. Considering this tendency within the context of contemporary theories of group rights and antidiscrimination law, the Article concludes that the now-neglected, alternative strand of an equal protection approach to free exercise should be revived.

Publication Citation

Published in: Boston College Law Review, vol. 47, no. 2 (March 2006).