Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

A Brief U.S. Religious Liberty Bibliography.

William Lee Miller, The First Liberty: Religion and the American Republic (Paragon House, 1985), does an excellent job of showing the roots of the U.S. tradition in Roger Williams and the key roles played by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Madison’s skilled work on the “no establishment” clause of the First Amendment, getting it past rival versions in the Continental Congress, makes for amazing reading and should put an end to the “we only outlawed a national church” views.

Leonard W. Levy, The Establishment Clause: Religion and the First Amendment (Macmillan, 1986), written in easy language by a brilliant constitutional scholar, also does a great job with the legislative history of the First Amendment–contrasting it with many state establishments of religion and colonial ones. Levy’s work takes on the “nonpreferentialists,” those who believe that government is free to promote religion on a “nonpreferential” basis and shows that nonpreferentialism is as harmful and mythical a beast for church/state relations as “separate but equal” is for racial justice.

Ronald B. Flowers, That Godless Court? Supreme Court Decisions on Church-State Relationships (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1994),written by a Disciple of Christ scholar and chair of the Religion Dept. at Texas Christian University, does an excellent job of explaining the logic behind particular cases and defending “benevolent neutrality.”

Leo Pfeffer, God, Caesar, and the Constitution: The Supreme Court as Referee of Church-State Confrontation (Beacon Press, 1975) does a brilliant job of defending strict separationism.

Christopher Vecsey, ed. Handbook of American Indian Religious Freedom (Crossroad, 1991), shows that Native Americans have been religiously discriminated against throughout the nation’s history (including the times during the 19th C. when the U.S. govt. paid for missionary schoolteachers in the hopes of destroying Native American culture).

Derek Davis and Barry Hankins, eds., Welfare Reform and Faith-Based Organizations (Baylor University Press, 1998) is a collection that debates the various aspects of “charitable choice” in the welfare reform act of 1996. The same issues are involved in Bush’s “office of faith-based initiatives.”

Derek Davis, ed., The Separation of Church and State Defended: Selections of the Writings of James E. Wood, Jr. (Baylor University Press). This is one of the best defenses of the traditional Baptist perspective (NOT the perspective of the current SBC leaders, which range from nonpreferentialist to outright theocracy).

Derek Davis and Barry Hankins, eds., New Religious Movements and Religious Liberty in America (Baylor University Press, 2003). This is an excellent volume on the strains and tensions that new religious movements, homegrown and imported, have for U.S. pluralism and religious liberty.


July 1, 2006 - Posted by | books, church-state separation, religious liberty


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