The influence of secularism in free exercise jurisprudence

Contrasting US and Australian interpretations


  • Alex Deagon


secularism, free exercise, religious freedom, United States, Australia


The free exercise clauses in the First Amendment of the US Constitution and Section 116 of the Australian Constitution are almost identical textually. However, they have been interpreted very differently, with the United States providing broad protection for religious freedom and Australia very narrow protection. I suggest that secularism has influenced First Amendment jurisprudence to some extent but Section 116 jurisprudence more significantly, and that this influence may explain the difference in interpretations. Hence, more secularist approaches to the free exercise clauses appear to contribute to narrower interpretations that undermine religious freedom.

Author Biography

Alex Deagon

Dr Alex Deagon is Senior Lecturer in the School of Law, Queensland University of Technology. He has published extensively in the area of religious freedom, and his work has been cited extensively in Aus- tralian Commonwealth Parliament proceedings and committees.