The Americanization Of Religious Minorities / Edition 1

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Overview

What happens when a minority religious group's beliefs run counter to the laws and principles of the American constitution? How do Americans reconcile the conflicting demands of church and state? In The Americanization of Religious Minorities, Eric Michael Mazur recounts the experiences of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Native Americans as cases in which minority religious groups seek to practice their faith in a constitutional order that recognizes a higher authority different from, and sometimes incompatible with, their own.

Mazur identifies three basic strategies these minority religious groups can follow: establishing a separate peace; accommodating their theology to political realities; and engaging in sustained conflict. He shows that, in order to practice its faith without hindrance from the law, a member of a religious minority must somehow buy into the principles and values of America's constitutional government. He also concludes that the closer a minority's beliefs are to Protestant Christianity, the easier the accommodation. Throughout, Mazur emphasizes the experience of religious minorities in dealing with this problem.

A fascinating investigation of religious groups' right to practice their faith, The Americanization of Religious Minorities will be of interest to students and scholars of American religion, American politics, and sociology.

"[I believe] the First Amendment represents the gift with the greatest potential to be given by this country to the world. But I also believe it is a promise that, like the messiah, is always coming but never here. We must understand what we have done to others who have faced the dilemma of being religious minorities in this culture so that we can better understand the limits, and the potential, of our hopes for greater religious freedom."—from the Preface

"It has long been accepted that no freedom is absolute, but we do not often examine the implicit boundaries set on religious freedom or think about the ramifications for religious communities that—for any number of reasons—do not consider themselves, or are not considered by others, part of the mainstream. Part of the value of this analysis rests in its exploration of how minority religious communities balance the desire to join the dominant culture, on the one hand, with the sometimes conflicting desire to maintain a particularistic community identity, on the other."—from the Introduction

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Church and State
A cogent exploration of the 'free exercise' clause of the First Amendment and how it has been construed in constitutional conflicts with three minority religions: the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Latter-Day Saints, and Native Americans.

— Susan M. Willis

Law and Politics Book Review

Raises several interesting questions involving the relationship of religious minorities to the constitutional order.

Journal of Religion and Society
The role of religious minorities in defining not only the boundaries of acceptable religiosity but also the textures of mainstream civic identity still resonates in current debates, as demonstrated in his opening example of sacrificial practices observed by followers of Santería. At stake in these debates, Mazur reminds us, is more than the free practice of religion; indeed, the pluralistic ideal in American civic life itself emerges in the struggles of excluded communities to join the mainstream while maintaining their own distinctive qualities, practices, and ways of life.

— Thomas S. Bremer

Sociology of Religion
An important book for scholars examining the relationship between religion and politics in the United States, as well as for teachers and students of the history of American religious diversity.

— Sherry Wright

Perspectives on Political Science
A thoughtful, enjoyable narrative of religious confrontation with the constitutional system.

— Mark E. Rush

Religious Studies Review
Mazur amasses familiar examples to create a strong and accessible argument concerning the constitutional authority all American religious communities must face.

— Jeffery Marlett

BYU Studies

Mazur raises difficult questions about the ostensible religious neutrality of America's constitutional order.

Journal of Church and State - Susan M. Willis

A cogent exploration of the 'free exercise' clause of the First Amendment and how it has been construed in constitutional conflicts with three minority religions: the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Latter-Day Saints, and Native Americans.

Journal of Religion and Society - Thomas S. Bremer

The role of religious minorities in defining not only the boundaries of acceptable religiosity but also the textures of mainstream civic identity still resonates in current debates, as demonstrated in his opening example of sacrificial practices observed by followers of Santería. At stake in these debates, Mazur reminds us, is more than the free practice of religion; indeed, the pluralistic ideal in American civic life itself emerges in the struggles of excluded communities to join the mainstream while maintaining their own distinctive qualities, practices, and ways of life.

Sociology of Religion - Sherry Wright

An important book for scholars examining the relationship between religion and politics in the United States, as well as for teachers and students of the history of American religious diversity.

Perspectives on Political Science - Mark E. Rush

A thoughtful, enjoyable narrative of religious confrontation with the constitutional system.

Religious Studies Review - Jeffery Marlett

Mazur amasses familiar examples to create a strong and accessible argument concerning the constitutional authority all American religious communities must face.

Booknews
Arguing that "it is a grave error . . . to assume that the areas of law and religion are naturally distinct and mutually exclusive," Mazur (religion, Bucknell U.) explores the ways in which religious groups such as Native Americans, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses have coped with situations in which their beliefs conflicted with the American constitutional order. He finds that accommodation, sustained conflict, or the establishment of a separate peace are the three basic strategies groups can follow. He also argues that the closer a religious order is to Protestant Christianity, the easier the accommodation. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Brian Edward Brown
For anyone interested in the history of religious freedom in the United States this text warrants significant consideration.
CrossCurrents
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801880568
  • Publisher: Hopkins Fulfillment Service
  • Publication date: 10/18/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Michael Mazur is an assistant professor of religion at Bucknell University.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

1 American religions and the authority of law 1
2 Constitutional congruence : Jehovah's witnesses and the constitutional order 28
3 Constitutional conversion : Latter-day Saints and the constitutional order 62
4 Constitutional conflict : Native American religious traditions and the constitutional order 94
5 Constitutional questions : the future of religious minorities in the American constitutional order 122
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