“In … recent times, … constitutional jurisprudence has tended, in the view of many, to move toward the de facto semi-establishment of a wholly secular understanding of the origin, nature and destiny of humankind and of the American nation. During this period, the exclusion of teaching about the role of religion in society, based partly upon a misunderstanding of First Amendment decisions, has ironically resulted in giving a dominant status to such wholly secular understandings in many national institutions.”
— The Williamsburg Charter
The Williamsburg Charter rightly focuses attention on the American contribution to religious liberty, which is a part of our Constitutional heritage. It has the virtue of trying to achieve consensus around issues of deep disagreement in various religious, education and political communities. For this reason, it makes a significant beginning in our thinking about religious pluralism.
It is not, of course, a perfect document and therefore needs critical evaluation. The original Constitution itself, although hailed in the opening paragraphs of the Charter as “the most wonderful work,” is not without its flaws. For example, the original Constitution tolerated human slavery and indentured service, and it limited the franchise to white, property-owning males.