Vincent Phillip Muñoz has been named a winner of the 2011 American Political Science Association’s Hubert Morken Award for his book God and the Founders: Madison, Washington, and Jefferson (Cambridge University Press).
Muñoz, the Tocqueville Associate Professor of Religion and Public Life at the University of Notre Dame, will receive this biennial prize for the best book in religion and politics at the association’s annual meeting in early September. He shares the award with Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, author of The Politics of Secularism in International Relations (Princeton University Press).
A specialist in constitutional law, American politics, and political philosophy, Muñoz is a faculty member of the College of Arts and Letters’ Department of Political Science and of the Notre Dame Law School. God and the Founders is his first book.
“My scholarship is a bit more traditional than what is currently trendy in academia,” Munoz says. “I try to ask big questions that are relevant to current legal and political issues—then I try to provide normative answers. That’s a bit risky for a young scholar, so to be recognized by the leaders in my discipline for such work was validating and, to be honest, quite surprising.”
In God and the Founders, he analyzes the public documents, private writings, and political actions of James Madison, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson to explain their competing philosophies of religious freedom and to show how each might have decided key Supreme Court cases.
“I believe the right to religious freedom is one of our most precious natural rights,” Muñoz says. “But hard questions exist related to its philosophical foundations, its limits, and how it can best be protected under the rule of law. I was hoping to help scholars, legal practitioners, and citizens better understand the meaning of the right to religious freedom so we can better protect it.”
Michael Gibbons, associate professor of government and international affairs at the University of South Florida and a member of the Hubert Morken Award committee, called God and the Founders “a very thorough, well argued and researched book addressing an issue of significant theoretical and practical importance.”
Muñoz is currently working on a sequel that will focus on how the American Constitution was designed to protect religious freedom. Articles from that project have already appeared in Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy and University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law.
This fall, he teaches American Constitutional Law as well as Constitutionalism, Law, and Politics—the gateway class to the university’s new undergraduate minor in constitutional studies.