Symbolism and the Olympic torch
Protests surrounding the Olympic torch relay have highlighted the stark difference in values between nations that guarantee religious liberty, and those that do not.
A new University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, shows how the United States arrived at its unique constitutional arrangement separating church and state, while guaranteeing freedom of religion and individual conscience.
“Religious liberty is something this country recognizes people have by birthright,” Murray quotes First Amendment scholar Charles Haynes. “Many of the framers believed there was a higher authority in their lives than the state, and the state’s role is to protect the rights of individuals to follow the dictates of their conscience as far as possible. This may be the greatest contribution the United States has made to civilization.”
Religious Liberty in America follows the development of religious pluralism in America for the past 400 years – from early conflicts between Protestants and Catholics to the current dizzying diversity of religious groups – all jockeying for their place at the American table. Throughout his discussion, Murray keeps a close eye on current issues, such as the mixing of religion and politics, battles over religious symbols in the public square, the “culture wars,” immigration, faith-based initiatives, and the Supreme Court.
“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, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.
Find out more about the author here.