CoverPolitical Civility in America

Exploring the connection between the First Amendment and political civility



Joe McCarthy
Sen. Joseph McCarthy was a symbol of political incivility and the "paranoid style of politics" in the 1950s.

• The false claim that the 2009 healthcare reform would subject American seniors to “death panels.”

• The deceptive editing of a film clip to make it appear as if former USDA official Shirley Sherrod were a racist.

• The perennial, erroneous allegation that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Political civility in America seems to have taken a dive southward, with the recent proliferation of false claims, malicious attacks on personal character and occasional rude outbursts. The phenomenon is not exclusive to either the right or the left.

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The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, explores the connection between political civility and religious liberty. Murray surveys the development of religious pluralism in America for the past 400 years – from early colonial times to the present. Throughout the book, Murray connects the past and present, tracing the historical roots of contemporary controversies, such as the mixing of religion and politics, battles over religious symbols in the public square, the “culture wars,” immigration and faith-based initiatives.


“Murray 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.

“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

Religious Liberty in America is available at libraries throughout North America, and it may be purchased from the University of Massachusetts Press.

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