How can this be accomplished? As President Thomas Jefferson admonished Supreme Court Justice William Johnson: On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.
James Madison also declared: I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful, exercise of its powers. What a metamorphosis would be produced in the code of law if all its ancient phraseology were to be taken in its modern sense.
Justice James Wilson similarly explained: The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it. Justice Joseph Story emphasized this same principle, declaring: The first and fundamental rule in the interpretation of all instruments is to construe them according to the sense of the terms and the intention of the parties.
It was and typically still is a fundamental maxim of law to determine the intent of the authors of a statute before attempting to apply it. Therefore, to discover the legitimate scope of protections and prohibitions intended in either the First Amendment or Article VI, investigate the records from that era rather than relying on an interpretation concocted by the Court two hundred years ex post facto.
Begin, for instance, by investigating the various proposals for the First Amendment. Notice that of George Mason a member of the Constitutional Convention and “The Father of the Bill of Rights”. All men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sector society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.
James Madison proposed: The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established. The Annals of Congress from June 8, 1789, to September 25, 1789, contain the complete official records of those who drafted and approved the First Amendment. Notice some of their discussions on its intent: AUGUST 15, 1789. Mr. Peter Sylvester of New York had some doubts. He feared it the First Amendment might be thought to have a tendency to abolish religion altogether.