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Piety & Politics: The Right-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom Paperback – October 23, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As a minister in the United Church of Christ and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Lynn has a significant stake in the battle for religious freedom, arguing that church-state separation has fostered "religious diversity and vitality"-fundamentalism included. But as a citizen who also respects the sanctity of secular law, he argues against using tax dollars for the imposition of specific religious worldviews on America's diverse peoples, whether through tax-funded, faith-based initiatives or abstinence-only sex-education. Religious freedom, Lynn asserts, means the "right to worship or not worship as you see fit," not a government obligation to boost religion. He grounds his legal arguments not in the Ten Commandments (which, he writes, "attempt to regulate religious behavior" along with civic conduct), but in the Constitution. In this political season, Lynn offers a sound alternative for Democratic leaders, who have sought to bridge perceived "values deficits" with religion instead of what the party ostensibly stands for: "a commitment to civil rights, civil liberties and economic justice."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

An ordained minister now heading an organization aimed at protecting the separation between church and state, Lynn brings passion and a broad perspective to the national debate swirling around this issue. Providing a historical overview, Lynn points out that in the nation's early history, separation of church and state was supported by both religious leaders and politicians as a means of protecting institutions of faith from government intrusion. Lynn examines school prayer, gay rights, the teaching of intelligent design, and faith-based initiatives as leading issues in the current turmoil between concerns about American morality and secular government. Christian conservatives, including Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, show no respect for history and law--or diversity of faith--when they push for a government that reflects their particular brand of religion, Lynn maintains. Only by separating religion and government can the nation truly guarantee religious and intellectual freedom. Whatever readers' religious or political beliefs, they will appreciate Lynn's well-considered examination of this contentious issue. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (October 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307347494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307347497
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,511,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Carey VINE VOICE on October 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Piety & Politics" is Reverend Barry Lynn's effort to educate the public on the dangers of church and state partnerships and the threat they pose to religious freedom. Lynn is an ordained minister for the United Church of Christ and he devotes considerable time and effort to defending church state separation He is also the executive director for the activist organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State and he wrote this book to explain some of the methodology of the Religious Right in its efforts to take control of government. Beginning with a chapter on the definition of religious freedom, the book offers separate chapters on some of the favorite targets of the Religious Right, such as public education, religious symbols, government- funded charity, church politicking, personal decisions on sexual matters, and the desire to censor undesirable books, movies, etc. Lynn selected these hot- button topics probably because they are among the most broad- based and the most often cited as areas where the Religious Right and its members feel strongly; so strongly, in fact, that they are willing to rewrite the U.S. Constitution in order to make their view of religion and morality the law of the land.

Barry Lynn is very well- versed on the church/state topic and he is very good at articulating his point of view. Many are familiar with Lynn and know him from his many appearances on television where he is often invited to share his perspectives. Often, Lynn squares off against one of the many pundits of the Religious Right effectively debunking the numerous myths perpetuated by these religious radicals and their followers. Lynn does exactly the same thing in this book.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Judging by his enemies, the author is a giant. His book tends to harp a bit, with a recounting of his many appearances on broadcast media, how the extreme right hates him, and how separation is good. I would normally drop it to four stars for the harping, but the substance is the best I've seen. This is a solid five-star review of both the massive fortunes being accumulated by the evangelical right, all tax free and completely absent any government oversight or audit. The author is responsible for documenting 56 cases where the religious right has broken the law by supporting specific candidates, for which they should lose their tax exempt status.

The author provides a clear and thoughtful discussion of the intent of our Founding Fathers, and why a theocracy, which is what we have in effect (but see my review of Tempting Faith, which may destroy the blind faith of the right in the Bush-Cheney regime), reduces religious freedom and tolerance.

Indeed, the author blasts Senator Lieberman (I-CT) for his constant use of religion to justify laws and positions. I believe the author would concur with Rabbi Michael Lerner's "Left Hand of God," to wit, we should strive to be people of faith, and live by our faith's tenets, but NOT mingle state funds and church funds, state regulations and church rites.

In historical context, the author discusses how protestant conservative churches grew and then tried to use the state to resist the influx of Catholics and other non-Protestant minorities.

The author discusses the hypocricy of the faith-based charities that want to be exempt from both taxation and regulation (e.g. hiring minorities), while taking money from the government under fomulas that are best questionable.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ellen Brown on October 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Reverend Lynn provides an iron-clad case for the defense of separation of church and state, which the Religious Right would like to see abolished. A core principal of our nation, church state separation is conceivably one of the most important of our American rights and one which makes us the envy of most of the world.

'Piety & Politics' is an excellent overview of the plot being perpetrated to transform America into a theocracy. One need only pick up a daily newspaper to find some compliancy from the White House or Congress towards that end. The Religious Right obfuscates the real issues of the day by deflecting media attention from the immoral war, stagnant economy, grossly underinsured populace and poverty and unemployment, to gay marriage, contraception and book banning.

Reverend Lynn's substance, style and wit make for enjoyable reading chock-full of food for thought.

For those who don't realize the colossal importance of our religious freedom, I highly suggest you read this book. When you're finished, you may want to visit [...] (Americans United for Separation of Church and State) to find out what you can do to stop the insanity and preserve our freedom.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne Takacs on October 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In his new book, Piety and Politics, Rev. Barry Lynn explains the Religious Right's relentless attack on church/state separation and why separation is necessary. He gives examples of the Religious Right's attacks and explains why they are invalid.

Rev. Lynn starts by explaining what religious freedom is, pointing out that "religious freedom is for everyone and every group-period... all are equal in the eyes of the state." He also states that despite the Religious Right's assertion that we are a Christian nation, "... nowhere does the constitution state that the country is Christian. In fact, the constitution contains no references to Jesus Christ, Christianity, or even God for that matter. The fact that above the signatures is the phrase 'in the year of our Lord' is purely stylistic and not theologically significant".

He also points out that church/state separation is important because it means that "no one can force your children to pray in public schools against your wishes" and later states "mandatory, taxpayer-supported religion is the antithesis of religious freedom. No one who is forced to support religion against his or her will is truly free."

As in the opening chapter, Rev. Lynn uses subsequent chapters to dismantle religious right claims concerning religion and public education, religious icons and public property, faith-based initiatives, sex and sex education, and censorship because of religious principles.

Rev Lynn is a fully ordained United Church of Christ minister who received his master's degree of divinity in 1973 from Boston University School of Theology. His plain, conversational tone makes for easy and enjoyable reading, explaining his views and relating facts in a way that everyone can understand. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is confused about the issue of church/state separation, and for anyone who wants a clear explanation of the battle being waged around it.
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