The Court of Disbelief: The Constitution’s Article VI Religious Test Prohibition and the Judiciary’s Religious Motive Analysis

The Birmingham Lawyers Chapter
Start : Thursday, April 18, 2013 12:00 PM
End : Thursday, April 18, 2013 01:00 PM

Add To Your Calendar

The Summit Club
1901 Sixth Avenue North
Birmingham, AL

Featured Speakers:
Francis J. Beckwith



  • Francis Beckwith, Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies, and Resident Scholar in the Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University

In several cases concerning whether particular laws violate the First Amendment’s prohibition of religious establishment, courts have rejected these laws on the ground that they have an exclusively religious purpose. The courts in some of these cases rely, in part, on the apparent religious motives of the laws’ sponsors and/or citizen-supporters as the basis by which to infer that the law or policy in question has a religious purpose. Professor Beckwith contends that this sort of analysis may violate the spirit of the no-religious-test clause of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution as well as the prohibition of punishing citizens based on their beliefs. He also argues that the judiciary’s failure to appreciate these possible violations is the result of embracing a mode of analysis that, when applied to the origin of laws, is based on a conflation of the terms “motive” and “purpose” as well as a mistake in thinking that the reasons employed to justify laws are the same as the beliefs that motivate the persons who support them. The judiciary thereby (in effect) limits the enumerated powers of legislators, and provides a perverse incentive for both citizens and legislators to mask their actual motives.

About Francis J. Beckwith: Francis Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies, and Resident Scholar in the Institute for Studies of Religion, at Baylor University. He holds five earned degrees including the MA and PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and the Master of Juridical Studies (in law) from the Washington University School of Law, St. Louis. He is the author or editor of over 15 books including Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007), To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview (InterVarsity Press, 2004), and Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010). He has also published over 100 academic articles, book chapters, critical reviews, and encyclopedia entries in a variety of publications.

Registration details:

Cost: $15 for lunch (Please pay at the door and make checks payable to “The Federalist Society”)

RSVP by Monday, April 15 to Carolyn Adkins at or 205-521-8687.

This course has been approved by the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Commission of Alabama for 1 hour credit.