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The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom Hardcover – February 18, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (February 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674724755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674724754
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Smith argues that the goal of American religious liberty has been ill served by the Supreme Court doctrines of the past half century. No mere diatribe, but a careful critique by a tremendously erudite and subtle scholar, The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom is one of the most important books on religious liberty in years. (Andrew Koppelman, Northwestern University)

About the Author

Steven D. Smith is Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of San Diego and Co-Executive Director of the USD Institute for Law and Religion.

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By George P. Wood TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In America, religious freedom is often named “the first freedom.” One reason reason for this name is religious freedom’s pride of place in the First Amendment. Only after stating, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” does that amendment go on to prohibit congressional laws “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The order of the First Amendment points to a second, more important reason for the name, however: the primacy of conscience that religious freedom protects.

One would think that religious freedom would unite Americans of all persuasions, religious and political. Unfortunately, however, religious freedom itself has become a controversial topic within our increasingly secular and egalitarian political culture. Flashpoints are numerous, but certain clashes are especially prominent at the present moment: the rights of religious groups at public schools, the constitutionality of the so-called ministerial exception, the burden ObamaCare’s sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate places on religious business owners; and the increasingly tense battle between gay rights groups and religious believers on the topic of same-sex marriage.

Underlying these conflicts are two very different narratives regarding the meaning of American religious freedom, whose differences Steven D. Smith outlines in The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom.
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Format: Kindle Edition
The author here brings to fruition decades of searching critical reflection on the liberal "rationalist" quandary regarding the moral and metaphysical basis of law. Deftly deflating the reigning enlightened mythology, Smith reveals the Christian (and notably pre-Reformation) roots of the idea, or rather the spirit of religious liberty. In doing so, he makes clear the impossibility of any purely neutral solution to the problem of religion and politics, of any "public reason" that could relieve us of the responsibility of ethical and indeed religious judgment.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although Professor Smith demonstrates a keen mind, his legal analysis is marred by a misrepresentation of the sources and influence of the separation of powers within the secular government and the spiritual government, of conscience, of equality and of toleration. A fine legal scholar is not always a fine historian. Finally, a lack of a broader discussion of the more recent case law after the Smith decision and federal legislation leaves Professor Smith with his "American Compromise"- a no more helpful concept than Professor's Koppelman's concept of "fluid neutrality" which Professor Smith critiques. To hold the position that positive governmental policy equally supporting public expressions of all devout religious beliefs, as Professor Smith does, leaves our current situation no clearer than our current status of case by case deliberation with some general rules as expressed by Professor Greenawalt elsewhere. Perhaps this is as it should be in the marketplace of competing religious beliefs and competing secular beliefs-a tug of war between accomodationists and seperationists. I will address the shortcomings of Professor Smith's book addressing seperation
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By Greg Scharf on November 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very important book for those who want to understand how we got here.
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