GOD AND GOVERNMENT: The Separation of Church and State by Ann E. Weiss

GOD AND GOVERNMENT: The Separation of Church and State

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A balanced presentation of the arguments and issues surrounding the American principles of religious freedom and church-state separation. Tracing our traditions back in history, Weiss notes that the Pilgrims came here not for religious freedom but for the chance to establish their own official church; and she points out the difference between religious tolerance, practiced in some colonies, and true religious freedom, granted only in Rhode Island but clearly intended by the framers of the Constitution. In this context, then, she proceeds to examine the questions of government subsidies to parochial schools (for library books, busing) and tax exemption for Church property--showing that both questions are more complicated than they seem. Such questions as abortion, life-death choices, prayer in public schools, and segregation in Southern Christian schools are considered in terms of ""Rights in Conflict"" (""Who is right?"" is a question Weiss often poses, without answering), and then, non-technically, in terms of First Amendment legality. A look at cults, especially the Unification Church, brings out the impossibility of fairly distinguishing between cults and religions and the difficulties involved in regulation even to protect members' civil rights. Finally, she takes on the religious right, which she sees as the third major religious revival movement in American history. Unlike Taylor's The New Right (1981), which more or less presented the Moral Majority as they present themselves, Weiss makes it clear that the leaders of this movement ""are trying to bring about the precise opposite of what the writers of the Constitution planned for the country."" Overall, she demonstrates the difference between objective analysis and namby-pamby synopsis and leaves readers with both an understanding of the Constitutional principles and an awareness of pesky considerations.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin