Oxford University Press Why have the issues of religious liberty, free speech and constitutional privacy come to figure so prominently in our society? What are the origins of the basic principles of our constitutional law? This work develops a general theory of constitutional interpretation based on an original synthesis of political theory, history, law, and a larger approach to the interpretation of culture. Presenting both historical and theoretical arguments in support of a theory that affirms the moral sovereignty of the people, Richards maintains that toleration, or respect for conscience and individual freedom, is the central constitutional ideal. He discusses such current topics of constitutional controversy as church-state relations, the scope of free speech, and the application of the constitutional right to privacy, to abortion, and consensual adult sexual relations.