On the solely jurisdictional reading, the nonestablishment clause in the US Constitution's First Amendment was designed to confirm that power over politics in relation to religion was assigned solely to the several states. This article first summarizes two presentations of that view (those of Steven D. Smith and Akhil Reed Amar), offers a critique of it, and then outlines an alternative. The critique is theoretical, seeking to show the incoherence of the solely jurisdictional reading, such that any theorist who assumes its internal consistency cancels her or his own interpretation of the First Amendment. This incoherence is present because that reading assumes the suprarational character of religious or comprehensive convictions, even while those citizens who hold any such conviction believe that justice depends on the ultimate terms of political evaluation they affirm. On the alternative outlined, religious freedom makes sense if and only if the ultimate terms of evaluation are given in common (adult) human experience, and thus the question about them is itself rational.
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