The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom by Steven D. Smith
The familiar narratives of religious freedom in the United States often tell the story of the founders of the vision who have diverged from the Christian patterns that existed centuries…
The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom synopsis
The familiar narratives of religiousfreedom in the United States often tell the story of the founders of the vision who have diverged from the Christian patterns that existed centuries ago to create political arrangements committed to a neutral secular and religious government. These new obligations are assumed to be reflected in the debt clauses of the First Amendment.
But this story is largely a tale, says Stephen Smith in this remarkable test of a very legendary subject. He explains that the American achievement was not a rejection of Christian commitments, but a restoration of the classic Christian example of freedom of the Church and freedom of conscience.
Smith asserts that the distinctive American contribution to religiousfreedom was not in the First Amendment, which was intended only to preserve the current political situation in matters of religion. What is important is the commitment to open an open door between the secular and civilized understandings of the nation that developed during the nineteenth century.
In the twentieth century, far from demonstrating constitutional principles, as traditional wisdom suggests, the Supreme Court imposed secular neutrality, which effectively denied this commitment to open competition. Instead of adhering to what is distinctive about the US Constitution and the Constitution, these decisions have spoiled it.
The negative results today show the incongruity of the jurisprudence of the religious condition and the intense cultural wars in American politics.
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