Inaugural Distinguished Judicial Lecture

The Honorable Thomas B. Griffith, U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit

"The Religion Clauses of the Constitution in a Secular Age"

The Religion Clauses of the Constitution were ratified in the late 18th century by a citizenry that lived in a world that was in many ways different from our increasingly secular age. What does that change in the nation's political, moral, and religious culture mean for our present understanding of the Religion Clauses? How should we account for that change as we debate the application of the Religion Clauses?

Judge Thomas Griffith is a Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Judge Griffith is the former Assistant to the President and General Counsel of Brigham Young University, and the former Senate Legal Counsel of the United States, the chief legal officer of the United States Senate.



“Do you get the sense that understanding the Constitution may involve more than casual reading?  For many of us, that poses a problem, because careful reading is hard work. Important texts deserve careful and close reads.  When we engage in that type of study, we learn things about the texts meaning that don’t yield themselves to casual reading… The serious study of the constitution is a lifelong endeavor.” 

“There can be a danger in invoking an ultimate authority, like the constitution, in support of an argument.  If we are not careful, we may lose sight of one of the most important civic virtues, humility.  But we must carry on our arguments with the realization that those with whom we disagree are not our enemies, rather, they are our colleagues in a great enterprise.”