Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism

Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism

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Since 1947, the Supreme Court has promised government neutrality toward religion, but in a nation whose motto is In God We Trust and which pledges allegiance to One Nation under God, the public square is anything but neutral -- a paradox not lost on a rapidly secularizing America and a point of contention among those who identify all expressions of religion by government as threats to a free society. Yeshiva student turned secularist, Bruce Ledewitz seeks common ground for believers and nonbelievers regarding the law of church and state. He argues that allowing government to promote higher law values through the use of religious imagery would resolve the current impasse in the interpretation of the Establishment Clause. It would offer secularism an escape from its current tendency toward relativism in its dismissal of all that religion represents and encourage a deepening of the expression of meaning in the public square without compromising secular conceptions of government.show more

Product details

  • Electronic book text | 310 pages
  • Indiana University Press
  • United States
  • English
  • 0253001366
  • 9780253001368

Review quote

Ledewitz (Duquesne Univ. School of Law) attempts to solve what he sees as two important and related crises that currently threaten the health and quality of American civic life: a crisis in American secularism referenced in the title (discussed primarily in part 3 of this book) and a crisis surrounding the First Amendment's establishment clause (the primary focus of parts 1 and 2). The latter crisis is relatively simply described: while the Supreme Court has stated that the establishment clause requires government neutrality toward religion, in reality government consistently favors religion of a monotheistic variety (one could say 'Judeo-Christian') in the public square. The former crisis centers on what Ledewitz describes as a developing trend toward the 'new atheism' within the growing American secular community. Ledewitz worries that the growing acceptance of moral relativism and rejection of clear standards of right and wrong among secular Americans might ultimately result in a society that ignores justice, or perhaps even lacks a clear sense of what is just. Summing Up: Recommended. All undergraduate, graduate, and research collections. --ChoiceM. D. Brewer, University of Maineshow more

Flap copy

There are two church-state crises today. The first is a crisis in interpreting the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Since 1947, the United States Supreme Court has promised government neutrality toward religion. But the public square is not neutral. The national motto is "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance denominates us a nation "under God." The public square is not even neutral among religions. Government displays of the Ten Commandments and other biblical images are common and have been upheld as constitutional.The second crisis lies in the heart of a rapidly secularizing America. Because prominent atheists identify religion as an enemy, secularists are led into unthinking opposition not only to religious imagery but to all that religion represents, including the objectivity of values. Secularism is thus in danger of descending into relativism.What is needed to resolve these crises is a vision of the Establishment Clause that the American people can accept one that honors religion while recognizing America s religious pluralism. In Church, State, and the Crisis of American Secularism, law professor and secularist Bruce Ledewitz offers that vision.Ledewitz argues that religious images, including references to God, contain secular meanings. Since the Declaration of Independence, religious imagery has been used to represent the objectivity of values and the universality of human rights. Government today should be permitted to utilize religious imagery to support similar secular ideals.This tradition is known as higher law. It teaches that there are objective standards of right and wrong, true and false, beautiful and ugly. The higher law tradition is secular and religious.Ledewitz s higher law proposal offers a justification of religious imagery in the public square that believers and nonbelievers can both accept. It invites the formation of a new political coalition and an end to the religious culture wars."show more

About Professor of Law Bruce Ledewitz

Bruce Ledewitz is Professor of Law at Duquesne University School of Law and author of American Religious Democracy: Coming to Terms with the End of Secular Politics and Hallowed Secularism: Theory, Belief, Practice. Ledewitz is a recognized expert in the fields of constitutional law and criminal law.show more