The Constitutional Meaning of Religious Freedom: Part Two
At the first Congress, James Madison submitted a proposed amendment to the Constitution that was intended to protect the rights of conscience. The record of the debate in Congress indicates that its members understood that the amendment was needed to satisfy those persons/states that had insisted that Congress not be able to legislate on religion. To ensure that the provision would have that effect, as finally worded, it said that the Congress could not prohibit the free exercise of religion or pass laws respecting religious establishments. The debate on another proposed amendment (defeated), which would have conditionally exempted pacifists from having to serve in the military, indicated that the representatives did not believe that persons have a right to such exemptions.