Christianity TodayBook Award of Merit in Politics and Public Life (2024)
How to heal America’s deep divisions by preserving religious liberty for all
As our political and social landscapes polarize along party lines, religious liberty faces threats from both sides. From antidiscrimination commissions targeting conservative Christians to travel bans punishing Muslims, recent litigation has revealed the selective approach both left and right take when it comes to freedom of religion. But what if religious liberty can help cure our political division?
Drawing on constitutional law, history, and sociology, Thomas C. Berg shows us how reaffirming religious freedom cultivates the good of individuals and society. After explaining the features of polarization and the societal benefits of diverse religious practices, Berg offers practical counsel on balancing religious freedom against other essential values.
Protecting Americans’ ability to live according to their beliefs undergirds a healthy, pluralistic society—and this protection must extend to everyone, not just political allies. Lay readers and legal scholars who are weary of partisan quarreling will find Berg’s case timely and compelling.
Table of Contents
Preface Introduction Part 1: The Problem of Polarization and Religious Liberty 1. Polarized America 2. Polarization on Religious-Liberty Issues Part 2: Arguments for Religious Freedom 3. Civil Liberty, Religion, and Personal Identity 4. Civic Peace, Civic Allegiance, and Our Religious-Freedom History 5. The Common Good, Religious Involvement, and “Freedom to Serve” Part 3: Principles of Religious Freedom 6. Free-Exercise Principles 7. Protecting Minority Faiths 8. LGBTQ Rights and Religious Freedom 9. Government Religious Speech in a Polarized Society Conclusion Indexes
Thomas C. Berg is the James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minnesota, where he teaches religious liberty, constitutional law, and intellectual property. He also supervises students in the religious liberty appellate clinic, which files briefs in cases in the US Supreme Court and appellate courts. In his advocacy, he has represented Christians, Muslims, Jews, Native Americans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hare Krishnas, atheists, and other groups. His scholarship and advocacy have been cited in the Supreme Court and several federal courts of appeals.
“Thomas Berg is one of the nation’s leading scholars and advocates promoting strong but sensible religious freedom for all faiths—whether ancient or new, large or small, popular or reviled. Here he offers a sobering and penetrating analysis of the dangers of reducing American religious freedom to a cudgel in the culture wars, an enemy of sexual liberty, or a barrier to foreigners. Adducing the prescient insights of the American founders and reconstructing the best of First Amendment jurisprudence, Berg argues that protecting the equal and robust liberty of all faiths—theistic, nontheistic, and antitheist alike—is the surest means of fostering justice, peace, and the common good. Authoritative but accessible, this book is a riveting and rewarding read!” —John Witte Jr., Emory University Studies in Law and Religion series editor
“Like other things we thought we understood, religious liberty has changed meaning in this era of culture wars and political polarization. An idea that entered our laws to protect individual freedom and put an end to old conflicts has itself become a center of controversy and, to some, a threat to their religious, social, or gender identities. Thomas Berg traces the developments that have brought us to this new reality, and he explains how they originated in religious thought as well as in law. The book concludes with principles of religious liberty formulated to resolve key questions about religious differences, individual freedom, and public religious observances as we experience these questions today. Religious Liberty in a Polarized Age is a valuable resource for students of law and religion and for leaders in religious, educational, and governmental institutions who must be prepared to deal with these problems when and where they arise.” —Robin Lovin, Southern Methodist University
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