The First Amendment
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Reviews of Religious Liberty in America

“Bruce T. Murray’s Religious Liberty in America … is thought provoking in relation to civil religion, religion in schools, and the sociology of American religion … Although the book’s subtitle indicates that its focus is the First Amendment, the development of legal doctrine forms only part of the tale Murray seeks to tell. What he has in mind, instead, is to explain how American society accommodates diversity of religious belief and practice.”
Kevin R.C. Gutzman, History Department, Western Connecticut State University, the Independent Review, Winter, 2009

The History Teacher

history teacher

“Religious Liberty in America engages a complex set of issues, especially welcome when matters of faith and politics have become so prevalent in public discourse. ... Murray covers a lot of ground in this relatively short book. In general, he nicely summarizes divergent views on religion's role in public life, capturing key moments in the development of religion in the formation of the nation, the U.S. Constitution, revivalism, and the origins of civil religion, exploring linkages between religion and the concepts of nationhood and belonging. The book provides short and readable summaries of this terrain for readers seeking succinct discussion of the issues.”
David A. Reichard, California State University Monterey Bay, The History Teacher, February 2009

Choice magazine

choice“This book is a splendid presentation of the First Amendment — ‘with civil religion as a parallel theme’ — especially as presently related to so many issues in American political and religious life. Other books on these issues have been appearing of late, but none as clear and thorough as this one. Bruce T. Murray, a journalist, hopes this book is ‘an easy read on a tough topic.’ His hope is definitely realized in this volume, which should be required reading for all journalists who touch on this book’s subject.”
G.H. Shriver, Professor Emeritus, Georgia Southern University (from the October, 2008 issue of Choice, a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.)

Humanities & Social Sciences

“Religious Liberty in America is a well-written, concisely argued book. With short, succinct chapters suitable for reading in an undergraduate class, the book is as good an introduction to the controversies about First Amendment religious liberty and their importance to American history as I have found. The endnotes offer clear primary sourcing for further exploration. I heartily recommend this book to professors of history, political science, and religious studies, and to other readers trying to make sense of the confusion about the place of religion in American society and the role of the Constitution in its protection.”
Kurt Hohenstein, Director of Paralegal Program and Co-Director of Law & Society Program, Winona State University (from Humanities & Social Sciences, H-Law, November, 2010)

Reviews in Religion & Theology

religion and theology“The numerous scholary monographs and edited volumes that have sought to address the topic of religious freedom in America have frequently only complicated it further ... It seems necessary, then, that the history and current concerns regarding religious freedom in America be clearly understood prior to weighing in on the contentious contemporary debates. This is precisely the task of Bruce T. Murray's Religious Liberty in America; one that he accomplishes with impartiality and insight.”
Brandon M. Crowe, Ph.D., School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Arizona State University
(from Reviews in Religion & Theology, History and Sociology of Religion, Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Vol. 17, Issue 2, 2010)

Religious Studies Review

rsr“The specific controversy involving the attempt to establish religion in the colonies by John Winthrop and the toleration policy of Roger Williams makes for interesting reading. The text is conversational, topical, and somewhat impressionistic, permitting the reappearance of issues such as prayer in schools, ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments displayed in an Alabama courthouse, and scholarly opinions.”
— William J. Hawk, Professor of Social & Political Philosophy, Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, James Madison University (from the Religious Studies Review, Volume 36, Issue 2, June, 2010)

Anglican Theological Review

“This book is a helpful introduction to religious freedom in America today, and in history. Implications of the First Amendment affect a great many dimensions of our social and personal lives, and Bruce T. Murray provides a historical map as context for considering questions that we continue to try to answer together.”
— Elizabeth Tauba Ingenthron, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Calif. (from the Anglican Theological Review, Vol. 92, No. 1, Winter 2010)

catholic historical review

Catholic Historical Review

“This concise and readable book discusses topics relating to the religion clauses of the First Amendment and, more generally, to the interaction of religion and politics in the United States. ... It is a highly accessible introduction to the topics it addresses, complete with references for documentation or further reading. ... The book is well written, engaging, and balanced in its presentations of competing views.”
Daniel O. Conkle, Professor of Law and Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University (from the July, 2009 issue of the Catholic Historical Review).

Georgia State University College of Law

“This book provides an interesting history of religious liberty in America and helps provide context to the topic of this guide. Additionally, the book examines religious liberty in public schools and discusses the concept of neutrality as a guiding principle for the government’s relationship to religion.”
— Research Guide for Prof. Nancy Johnson's Advanced Legal Research class

Professor Philip Goff

“Bruce Murray seeks to lay out historically and conceptually the issues behind the two religious liberty clauses in the First Amendment. In doing so, he introduces and traces such significant topics as the development of religious pluralism and its ironic counterpart, civil religion. Nowhere is there such a clear and concise explanation of the issues as Murray offers in this book.”
Philip Goff, Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.

Bill Tammeus’ ‘Faith Matters’ blog

“Anyone searching for a clear, well-documented primer on religious freedom in this country, with special attention to current case law, can find it here. Murray, a journalist, writes with clarity and, though the book is only a bit over 200 pages, draws on enough original documents to create a compelling and helpful book. A series of useful sidebars within the chapters helps to flesh out the nuances of this subject, of which there are plenty ... It's practically a must for any comprehensive public library that wants to be taken seriously.”
Bill Tammeus, author, emeritus of the Kansas City Star, and editor of “Faith Matters”

More news on Religious Liberty in America


‘Valuable wisdom’

Religious Liberty in America is among World magazine's featured books that “offer valuable wisdom for this season of commencement.”

University of Massachusetts Press news

UMass Press books in the news

St. Cloud University News

Religious Liberty in America is one of about 700 books honored from a pool of about 7,000 books reviewed by the library journal.

The Journal of American History

Religious Liberty in America is noted in the journal's list of “recent scholarship.”

Freedom of conscience, anti-censorship

The File Room lists Religious Liberty in America in its bibliography of anti-censorship resources. The File Room is hosted and maintained by the National Coalition Against Censorship.

YBP ‘Academic Essentials’
Louisiana Book News


Syndetic Solutions

See complete Choice review here. Includes table of contents.


University libraries where Religious Liberty in America is available.

Poynter Institute

First Amendment resources and bibliography

SageLaw links

Focus on the law

See book reviews focusing on the legal issues covered in Religious Liberty in America.

Scholarly citations

Religious Liberty in America has cited in numerous scholarly publications and journals.

Media citations

Religious Liberty in America has been cited in numerous news publications.

Religious Liberty in the classroom

Religious Liberty in America is in use in several university courses.


Book reviews critical of Religious Liberty in America