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New Book Alert

I think Commonweal readers are likely to have some interest in the newest book by my friend and colleague, Steve Shiffrin. Here's a link to the publisher's page. And here's a blurb from the publisher's description:

In The Religious Left and Church-State Relations, noted constitutional law scholar Steven Shiffrin argues that the religious left, not the secular left, is best equipped to lead the battle against the religious right on questions of church and state in America today. Explaining that the chosen rhetoric of secular liberals is poorly equipped to argue against religious conservatives, Shiffrin shows that all progressives, religious and secular, must appeal to broader values promoting religious liberty. He demonstrates that the separation of church and state serves to protect religions from political manipulation while tight connections between church and state compromise the integrity of religious institutions.Shiffrin discusses the pluralistic foundations of the religion clauses in the First Amendment and asserts that the clauses cannot be confined to the protection of liberty, equality, or equal liberty. He explores the constitutional framework of religious liberalism, applying it to controversial examples, including the Pledge of Allegiance, the government's use of religious symbols, the teaching of evolution in public schools, and school vouchers. Shiffrin examines how the approaches of secular liberalism toward church-state relations have been misguided philosophically and politically, and he illustrates why theological arguments hold an important democratic position--not in courtrooms or halls of government, but in the public dialogue. The book contends that the great issue of American religious politics is not whether religions should be supported at all, but how religions can best be strengthened and preserved.

We just had a wonderful celebration of the book here at Cornell, with talks by Kent Greenawalt, Sally Gordon, and Bernie Meyler. Check it out.

About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.



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I had heard an anecdote and cannot trace the source at the moment that when the Roman Catholic church began establishing schools, hospitals an churches, that the papal nuncio approached the gov't (Ben Franklin) for permission. There was no reply. The basis for the lack of reply was because it was not the role of the government to permit or not permit religious organizations from establishing themselves. This was very counter-intuitive to the experience of Rome and its relationship to other monarchs. On the one hand, they were delighted that they could have free reign without fear of persecution. On the other, they could not be assured of the State buttressing their truth claims via legislationIssues like abolition of slavery, civil rights, war and peace, alleviation of poverty, education have always carried with them strong currents of religious drive and inspiration (I suppose one could characterize these movements as "leftist). There has been a political dimension to these movements as is currently seen in liberation theology. The same is true of course, for abortion which is viewed as a politically right issue.At any rate, sounds like an interesting book although I don't like labels.

A while back on another thread, we had a dsitinction made between religious left and religious liberals (or so I read it.)Here they seem to be understood interchangeably, which, I suggest, is not only correct but also in touch with dealing with the religious right (say, Pat Robertson or even Mr. Donahue.)Unfortunately, I think there is a split on the Catholic left bewteen those fundamentally tied to institutionsal priorities and those who see the institution itself moving further and further right.I think the voice of the Catholic left then is not only weakened internally but also in contrast to say the leeadership of our Bishops who in general are mainly concernbed with pleasing those above and no talways the common good.

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