USD Law Professor Steven D. Smith Discusses Religion in Public Policy with The Boston Globe

The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom

Boston (March 30 , 2014) -  Today, The Boston Globe published a one-on-one interview with University of San Diego (USD) School of Law Professor and Co-Executive Director of the Institute for Law and Religion Steven D. Smith. In the article, Smith discusses his position that our country's founders left the question of how great a role religion should play in the American story to state and local voters.

Smith challenges the assumption that the America’s founders, mindful of religious persecution in Europe, put in place a uniquely high wall between religion and government in the First Amendment.

In the interview with correspondent Christopher Shea, Smith explains we’re all getting it wrong. Virtually every founder took for granted that religion would play a role in the governance of the nation and would have understood the First Amendment as allowing religion a place in government. 

Smith contends that the Supreme Court swerved away from the founders’ intent only in the mid-20th century, when it tried to replace the messy give-and-take of democratic compromise on religion with rigid constitutional rules. This approach was epitomized and cemented by the school-prayer decisions of the 1960s, which held that even nondenominational Christian prayers to start the school day amounted to the "establishment" of religion.

Read the entire interview on

About Professor Smith

Steven D. Smith is Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, where he teaches and writes in the areas of law and religion, constitutional law, and torts. Smith is also the co-executive director for both USD’s Institute for Law and Religion and Institute for Law & Philosophy. Smith’s books include The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse (Harvard University Press, 2010); Law's Quandary (Harvard University Press, 2004); and Foreordained Failure: The Quest for a Constitutional Principle of Religious Freedom (Oxford University Press, 1995). His latest book is The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom (Harvard University Press, 2014).

About the University of San Diego School of Law

Celebrating 60 years of alumni success, the University of San Diego (USD) School of Law is recognized for the excellence of its faculty, depth of its curriculum, and strength of its clinical programs. Each year, USD educates approximately 900 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world. The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 81 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates. The law school’s faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 23rd worldwide in all-time faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, nonprofit, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.


Raymond Penney
(619) 260-4031


Contact Us

Phone: (619) 260-4527

View Directory

83° 61°

Visit Campus

Warren Hall, Room 201
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110