Religious Freedom in America
Constitutional Roots and Contemporary Challenges
Allen D. Hertzke, Ph.D. and Kyle Harper
Narrated by David Durand
Approximately 10 hours
Book published by University of Oklahoma Press
All Americans, liberal or conservative, religious or not, can agree that religious freedom, anchored in conscience rights, is foundational to the U.S. democratic experiment. But what freedom of conscience means, what its scope and limits are, according to the Constitution—these are matters for heated debate. At a moment when such questions loom ever larger in the nation’s contentious politics and fraught policy-making process, this timely book offers invaluable historical, empirical, philosophical, and analytical insight into the American constitutional heritage of religious liberty.
As the contributors to this interdisciplinary volume attest, understanding religious freedom demands taking multiple perspectives. The historians guide us through the legacy of religious freedom, from the nation’s founding and the rise of public education, through the waves of immigration that added successive layers of diversity to American society. The social scientists discuss the swift, striking effects of judicial decision making and the battles over free exercise in a complex, bureaucratic society. Advocates remind us of the tensions abiding in schools and other familiar institutions, and of the major role minorities play in shaping free exercise under our constitutional regime. And the jurists emphasize that this is a messy area of constitutional law. Their work brings out the conflicts inherent in interpreting the First Amendment—tensions between free exercise and disestablishment, between the legislative and judicial branches of government, and along the complex and ever-shifting boundaries of religion, state, and society.
What emerges most clearly from these essays is how central religious liberty is to America’s civic fabric—and how, under increasing pressure from both religious and secular forces, this First Amendment freedom demands our full attention and understanding.
“With religious freedom under assault from various directions, this fine collection of essays could not be timelier. Bringing historical, juridical, and social science perspectives to bear on contemporary challenges, the authors and editors point the way to a society in which diverse religions may not only peacefully coexist but flourish, and where no one is forced to choose between religious obligations and civic duties.”
—Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University
“As religious freedom becomes an increasingly contentious area of public law and policy, this volume offers an outstanding collection of essays on religious freedom and related church-state issues. Each carefully crafted essay stakes out a position—while giving due consideration to multiple and competing views. Scholars, students, judges, journalists, and anyone with a serious interest in the topic should put this volume at the top of their reading list.”
—John J. DiIulio, Jr., Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society, University of Pennsylvania, and First Director, White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initia
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