Richard W. GarnettNovember 14, 2005 - 5:08am0 comments
Divided by God
by Noah Feldman
God vs. the Gavel
by Marci A. Hamilton
The Impossibility of Religious Freedom
by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
When does state action acknowledging the role of faith in our nation’s history become an illegal establishment or endorsement of religion? Where is the line between accommodations for religion that the First Amendment permits-even encourages-and prohibited special privileges for believers? And, when might judges’ efforts to reduce religious strife cause the very divisions they are intended to prevent? Three new books by prominent scholars explore these and other pressing questions.
The tone of Noah Feldman’s Divided by God is warm and his aims irenic. His starting point is the observation that “we are, increasingly, a nation divided by God....We all believe in religious liberty...[but] we cannot agree on what the relation between religion and government should be.” To this premise, Feldman adds an engaging account of the origins of the Religion Clause, the development of current church-state legal doctrine, and our persistent, evolving debates about the place of religious believers and commitments in politics and the public square.
Justice David Souter observed in one of the recent Ten Commandments cases that “the divisiveness of religion in current public life is inescapable.” Feldman agrees, but he also insists that the rival “camps” in the culture wars share the same goal. True, “legal secularists” see “religion as a matter of personal belief and choice largely irrelevant to government” and are “...