Article Title

The Resurgence of Secularism: Hostility Towards Religion in The United States and France

Publication Title

Washington University Jurisprudence Review


Secularism is a complex principle that in its most simple formulation calls for the separation of religion and government. In this Note, I examine the classical liberal approach to resolving the tension between religion and the state. I argue that the United States was founded, and the First Amendment of the Constitution was drafted, with John Locke’s proposal for toleration in mind. I then argue that the Supreme Court’s insertion of the concept of “separation of Church and State” into the Constitution in Everson v. Board of Education took Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor out of context, and in doing so betrayed America’s founding principles. Yet, the Court’s attempt to push for a more secular state ultimately failed because the American people have remained religious. I then contrast the First Amendment and America’s founding with the legal form of separation of Church and State in France, as embodied in laïcité. Finally, I argue that the secular elite in the United States have re-emerged in a position of power to push its secular agenda. This is demonstrated by the “contraception mandate” promulgated by the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I conclude that this new push for secularism is contrary to both America’s founding and pubic sentiment. Even more devastating, it would bring the United States closer to resembling the legal form of secularism embodied by laïcité, which would result in an erosion of the First Amendment and could create hostility towards religion as can be seen in France.