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Abstract

The Article is divided into three Parts. Part I documents the Founders’ shared understanding that religious liberty is a natural right possessed by all individuals. Part II explains what the Founders meant when they labeled aspects of religious liberty an “unalienable” natural right. The inalienable character of the core of religious liberty reveals what the Founders found special about religion. It also accounts for religion’s special constitutional status, which for the Founders primarily meant specific jurisdictional limits on state sovereignty rather than exemptions. Part III further clarifies the Founders’ constitutionalism of religious freedom by explaining how the Founders understood natural rights to have natural limits. The Founders’ theory of religious liberty included within itself reasonable limits on religious exercise.

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