Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism

Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism

Bruce Ledewitz
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 06/01/2011
ISBN: 978-0-253-00136-8
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Since 1947, the Supreme Court has promised government neutrality toward religion, but in a nation whose motto is "In God We Trust" and which pledges allegiance to "One Nation under God," the public square is anything but neutral—a paradox not lost on a rapidly secularizing America and a point of contention among those who identify all expressions of religion by government as threats to a free society. Yeshiva student turned secularist, Bruce Ledewitz seeks common ground for believers and nonbelievers regarding the law of church and state. He argues that allowing government to promote higher law values through the use of religious imagery would resolve the current impasse in the interpretation of the Establishment Clause. It would offer secularism an escape from its current tendency toward relativism in its dismissal of all that religion represents and encourage a deepening of the expression of meaning in the public square without compromising secular conceptions of government.

Author Bio

Bruce Ledewitz is Professor of Law at Duquesne University School of Law and author of American Religious Democracy: Coming to Terms with the End of Secular Politics and Hallowed Secularism: Theory, Belief, Practice. Ledewitz is a recognized expert in the fields of constitutional law and criminal law.


“In a nation whose motto is “In God We Trust” and which pledges allegiance to “One Nation under God,” the Establishment Clause is often seen as a paradox not lost on a rapidly secularizing country. Here, the author seeks a new vision that recognizes America’s religious pluralism.”

“A fresh, provocative approach to longstanding problems concerning the relationship of church and state [that] will make people on every side of this debate think more carefully and fruitfully about their positions.”
 — Steven Goldberg, author of Bleached Faith: The Tragic Cost When Religion is Forced Into the Public Square

“In our often rancorous and genuinely difficult debates over Church and State, we need more people like Bruce Ledewitz who sets out in search for common ground and who tries to persuade rather than shout down those who disagree with them. He writes in the spirit of someone trying to move us forward, and even those who find much to argue with here will come to see Church, State and the Crisis in American Secularism as an excellent starting place for a more productive argument.”
 — E. J. Dionne, author of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right

“Bruce Ledewitz has produced a valuable book that raises important questions about the unique relationships between church and state, religion and secularism. Drawing on a rich collection of sources, Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism calls on Americans, both secular and religious, to find common ground.”
 — Senator Joe Lieberman

“Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism is a fascinating and scholarly read, highly recommended. September 2011”
 — Midwest Book Review

“Ledewitz's Church, State and the Crisis in American Secularism is an ambitious and timely work. . . . [His] critique of modern Establishment Clause jurisprudence is compelling and frequently insightful. ”
 — Law and Politics Book Review

“Ledewitz's incorporation of the intellectual history of and current challenges facing secularism is a valuable and unique contribution to the Establishment Clauses literature. ”
 — Duquesne Law Review

“This is an ambitious, rich, and rewarding book. Readers will learn a great deal about the place of religion in contemporary American politics, the U.S. Supreme Court's treatment of 'church-state separation' since the mid-twentieth century, and the complex dance between faith and secularism in America's free religious marketplace. Not all readers will agree with Ledewitz's normative concerns or with his solutions, but considering both is a task well worth undertaking.”
 — Insight Turkey

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Table of Contents

I. The Establishment Clause Crisis
1. What We Say: The Supreme Court’s Promise of Government Neutrality Toward Religion
2. What We Do: The Failure of the Supreme Court to Redeem the Promise of Government Neutrality
3. Why Only the People and Not History Can Resolve the Establishment Clause Crisis
4. Proposals That Have Failed to Resolve the Establishment Clause Crisis
II. Using Government Speech and Higher Law to Resolve the Establishment Clause Crisis
5. The Establishment of Higher Law
6. Using Religious Symbols to Establish Higher Law
7. Applying Higher Law in Church/State Issues
III. Using the Higher Law Establishment Clause to Save Secularism
8. The Failure of Secularism under the New Atheism
9. The New New Secularism and the Higher Law
10. Is God a Universal Symbol?
11. The New Politics of Higher Law Secularism
Conclusion: Perfecting Democracy