Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

Reader 1

George Thomas

Reader 2

Paul Hurley

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This thesis traces the evolution of the Supreme Court’s Free Exercise Clause jurisprudence and the shifting partisan politics that have accompanied it. It first explores the divergent philosophies guiding left- and right-leaning accommodationists as well as their jurisdictionalist counterparts, highlighting how these competing philosophies are expressed in the Court’s jurisprudence. This thesis then details the rise and dissolution of the bipartisan accommodationist coalition, which it argues is a result of irreconcilable differences in left- and right-leaning philosophical and political commitments. Next, it explores the incongruities in the Court’s recent Free Exercise Clause jurisprudence, which combines elements of both jurisdictionalist and accommodationist precedent. The thesis will then turn to discuss how the issue of reproductive rights threatens to disrupt the partisan divide over accommodations, as liberals harness right-leaning religious accommodations jurisprudence in order to secure exemptions from restrictions on abortion. This thesis will conclude by arguing that the Court must disentangle the application of its conflicting accommodationist and jurisdictionalist philosophies. Accommodationism threatens to erode the rule of law, foster judicial discretion that is tainted with partisanship, and misgovern competing claims to toleration. A return to jurisdictionalism is the best way to safeguard the inalienable right to religious liberty.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.