Union University

Union University Department of Political Science

Department of Political Science


Irons discusses Church-State Relations

Sep 20, 2011

Last night, Peter Irons, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of California at San Diego, gave a lecture entitled "First Commandment v First Amendment: What Does the Constitution Say?" for Constitution Day. Irons argued that the appropriate relationship between church and state is for the state not to support religion. Irons argued that one of the early religious groups discriminated against in the early days of our nation were Baptists and it is for this reason that Baptists have historically in favor of separation of church and state. The main reason separation is important is that we need to protect minority religions from the majority to protect freedom of conscience. In the remainder of his lecture, Irons traced the history of establishment clause jurisprudence, how Baptists were many times the ones who opposed religious displays and sued for their removal, and  the costs involved for those who go against the majority's will.

Irons has written or edited 12 books and has won several awards from the American Bar Association. He has also been an active civil rights attorney having gotten Fred Korematsu, of US v Korematsu fame, felony overturned for refusing to go to an internment camp after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Prof. Irons also spoke in two other classes that day. Union was able to bring in such a well qualified speaker due to the connections of one of Union's long time trustees, Judge Tommy Moore, of Dresden.