The Establishment Clause

Religion and the First Amendment

Second Edition, Revised

By Leonard W. Levy

300 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4466-3
    Published: December 1994
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6624-0
    Published: March 2017
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2043-5
    Published: March 2017

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Leonard Levy's classic work examines the circumstances that led to the writing of the establishment clause of the First Amendment: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . .' He argues that, contrary to popular belief, the framers of the Constitution intended to prohibit government aid to religion even on an impartial basis. He thus refutes the view of 'nonpreferentialists,' who interpret the clause as allowing such aid provided that the assistance is not restricted to a preferred church.

For this new edition, Levy has added to his original arguments and incorporated much new material, including an analysis of Jefferson's ideas on the relationship between church and state and a discussion of the establishment clause cases brought before the Supreme Court since the book was originally published in 1986.

About the Author

Leonard W. Levy was Andrew W. Mellon All-Claremont Professor Emeritus of Humanities at the Claremont Graduate School. He is editor of the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Origins of the Fifth Amendment.
For more information about Leonard W. Levy, visit the Author Page.


"Much more than a revision of the 1986 publication. It is significantly rewritten and expanded--and improved. No other scholar is capable of this level of work. . . . This book is a model of policy history, demonstrating the relevance of disinterested historical scholarship to the formation of public policy."--Stanley N. Katz, American Council of Learned Societies

"Levy [is] one of the best of our constitutional historians. . . . This is a strong, admirable book--at times, even passionate."--New York Times Book Review

"America's foremost historian of law provides a profoundly intelligent contribution to an issue that regularly gets confused in the hands of superficial commentators. . . . A powerful argument."--Philadelphia Inquirer

"A lively, informative work and often fascinating reading."--Appellate Practice Journal