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Ira Lupu

Robert Tuttle (right) has taught at George Washington University Law School for twenty years. Ira Lupu (left) taught law at Boston University for sixteen years and is currently in his twenty-fourth year at George Washington University. They first met in 1990, when Lupu joined the George Washington faculty and discovered, in his words, "the finest student he has ever taught" — Bob Tuttle. Both men are experts in religion and law, specializing in the first amendment, and they have been personally involved in the litigation surrounding some of the Supreme Court cases discussed in their new book, Secular Government, Religious People.

This is hardly their first scholarly collaboration. Together they have published a staggering number of scholarly articles and chapters in books, not to mention yearly, book-length works on the state of the law as it pertains to government relationships with faith-based organizations between 2003 and 2008. It might be fair to say they do more work together than apart.

In their new book, these two experienced scholars have put forward an original theory of religious liberty that makes the secular character of American government its centerpiece. The American system of government is a secular one, they claim, but this is not to be construed as anti-religious or an establishment of secularism — it simply reflects the limits of civil government. The nonestablishment clause of the First Amendment, for Lupu and Tuttle, defines a government that gains its authority from the people (as opposed to a transcendent or revealed source) and is limited in its power over the people in matters of religion.

The approach of Secular Government, Religious People is especially unique in that it circumvents the basic arguments that provide perpetual fuel for the so-called "culture wars." Each side seeks to claim a set of rights that are incompatible with the other, but Lupu and Tuttle reject the language of rights altogether. They achieve this by claiming that the concept of nonestablishment is meant not for the protection of individual rights as such, but as a jurisdictional limit on civil authority. This innovative approach seeks to bring an end to some of the century’s loudest and least fruitful controversies in order to preserve religious liberty for all.