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Our constitutional law of religious liberty is a riot of principles: principles of freedom of conscience, neutrality, separation of church and state, and others. To resolve concrete disputes, we must identify what those principles are and how they could ever jointly deliver singular answers to constitutional questions. Furthermore, to identify what the principles are, we must grasp what makes them so. This Article aims to meet these three needs. It clarifies what grounds our constitutional principles, sketches what our constitutional principles of religious liberty are today, and explains how the law could ever lie decisively on the side of one litigant or rule over another when individual principles point in opposite directions. It develops and tests its claims by analyzing two questions at the law’s frontiers: whether free exercise principles support a constitutional entitlement to exemption from antidiscrimination obligations beyond what free speech principles alone mandate, and whether publicly chartered religious schools are constitutionally permitted, required, or prohibited.

This is an investigation into the constitutional law of religious liberty, of course. But two of the three essential tasks it tackles—explaining how our principles are what they are and how multiple principles could ever provide determinate legal answers to contested constitutional questions— are critical across all regions of constitutional law. Accordingly, this Article examines the constitutional law of religious liberty both for its own sake and as a window into the fundamental elements and mechanics of American constitutional law generally. Its central arguments are that principles are the building blocks of our constitutional law, that they change organically as legal practices and commitments change, and that they can yield singular constitutional facts or rules despite their plurality.