Americanization of Religious Minorities: Confronting the Constitutional Order

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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 ...

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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

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Editorial Reviews

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: 9780801862205
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 9/22/1999
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

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

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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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