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The Religious Left and Church-State Relations

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Shiffrin presents an interesting argument in this volume: the religious Left is better equipped than the secular Left to challenge the religious Right on questions of church and state in the U.S. . . . A useful book for students of constitutional law and religion in the U.S.
Choice
Shiffrin presents an interesting argument in this volume: the religious Left is better equipped than the secular Left to challenge the religious Right on questions of church and state in the U.S. . . . A useful book for students of constitutional law and religion in the U.S.
Commonweal
The Religious Left and Church-State Relations offers a tour-de-force account of the First Amendment's religion clauses and how they should be interpreted. This is no dry academic exercise, but rather a direct response to conservatives who view supporters of church-state separation as uncaring, even hostile, toward organized religion. The book is a refutation by one who cares deeply.
— Robert K. Vischer
Journal of Law and Religion

The Religious Left is a valuable and provocative book. Scholars of law, religion, and politics will want to mull over Shiffrin's cogent and artfully argued conclusions. Shiffrin has made an important contribution to the literature at the evergreen intersection of constitutional and political theory. The seasoning and deep learning of Shiffrin's mind permeate the book's pages.
— Marc O. DeGirolami
Journal of Church and State
Shiffrin has made an excellent contribution with this book, one on which he and others may now build.
— Melissa Rogers
Journal of Law & Religion
The Religious Left is a valuable and provocative book. Scholars of law, religion, and politics will want to mull over Shiffrin's cogent and artfully argued conclusions. Shiffrin has made an important contribution to the literature at the evergreen intersection of constitutional and political theory. The seasoning and deep learning of Shiffrin's mind permeate the book's pages.
— Marc O. DeGirolami
Commonweal - Robert K. Vischer
The Religious Left and Church-State Relations offers a tour-de-force account of the First Amendment's religion clauses and how they should be interpreted. This is no dry academic exercise, but rather a direct response to conservatives who view supporters of church-state separation as uncaring, even hostile, toward organized religion. The book is a refutation by one who cares deeply.
Journal of Law and Religion - Marc O. DeGirolami
The Religious Left is a valuable and provocative book. Scholars of law, religion, and politics will want to mull over Shiffrin's cogent and artfully argued conclusions. Shiffrin has made an important contribution to the literature at the evergreen intersection of constitutional and political theory. The seasoning and deep learning of Shiffrin's mind permeate the book's pages.
Journal of Church and State - Melissa Rogers
Shiffrin has made an excellent contribution with this book, one on which he and others may now build.
From the Publisher

One of Tikkun Magazine's 25 Recommended Titles for 2009

"The Religious Left and Church-State Relations offers a tour-de-force account of the First Amendment's religion clauses and how they should be interpreted. This is no dry academic exercise, but rather a direct response to conservatives who view supporters of church-state separation as uncaring, even hostile, toward organized religion. The book is a refutation by one who cares deeply."--Robert K. Vischer, Commonweal

"The Religious Left is a valuable and provocative book. Scholars of law, religion, and politics will want to mull over Shiffrin's cogent and artfully argued conclusions. Shiffrin has made an important contribution to the literature at the evergreen intersection of constitutional and political theory. The seasoning and deep learning of Shiffrin's mind permeate the book's pages."--Marc O. DeGirolami, Journal of Law and Religion

"Shiffrin has made an excellent contribution with this book, one on which he and others may now build."--Melissa Rogers, Journal of Church and State

"Shiffrin presents an interesting argument in this volume: the religious Left is better equipped than the secular Left to challenge the religious Right on questions of church and state in the U.S. . . . A useful book for students of constitutional law and religion in the U.S."--Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691141442
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/27/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Steven H. Shiffrin is the Charles Frank Reavis Sr. Professor of Law at Cornell University. He is the author of "Dissent, Injustice, and the Meanings of America" and "The First Amendment, Democracy, and Romance" (both Princeton).
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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Introduction 1

PART I: THE PLURALISTIC FOUNDATIONS OF THE RELIGION CLAUSES 9

Chapter 1. Overview of Part I 11

Chapter 2. The Free Exercise Clause 16
The Court's Approach 16
Liberal Theory 17
Communitarian Theory 18
Free Exercise Values 20
Applying the Free Exercise Clause 23

Chapter 3. Establishment Clause Values 28
Liberty and Autonomy 29
Equality 30
Stability 31
Promoting Political Community 31
Protecting the Autonomy of Government 32
Protecting Churches 32
Promoting Religion 34

Chapter 4. Applying the Establishment Clause 41
Acceptable Deviations from Equality 42
Unacceptable Conformity with Equality:
Equality in the Public School Classroom 54
Concluding Observations about Part I 58

PART II: THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND THE SOCIALIZATION OF CHILDREN: COMPULSORY PUBLIC EDUCATION AND VOUCHERS 61

Chapter 5. Compulsory Public Education 63
Pierce v. Society of Sisters: A Landmark Case 65
The Purposes of Public Education 68
The Limits of Compulsory Public Education 74
Constitutional? Sometimes. Good Public Policy? No. 80
Chapter 6. Vouchers 82
Are Vouchers Constitutionally Required? 82
Wise Policy for Preadolescents? 83
Should Vouchers Be Constitutionally Permitted for Religious Schools? 86
Concluding Observations about Part II 93

PART III . RELIGION AND PROGRESSIVE POLITICS 95

Chapter 7. Religion and Progressive Politics 97
Secular Liberalism 100
Religious Liberalism 106
Chapter 8. The Politics of Liberalism 110
The Relative Political Attractiveness of Secular and Religious Liberalism 110
Religion and American Party Politics 125
Grassroots Democracy, Liberal Politics, and Excessive Religious Hostility 127

Conclusion 134
Notes 137
Index 237

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