Garman fashions a forceful argument for the separation of church and state, backed up by a bevy of useful historical documents.
For Garman, there is no quibbling about church-state issues–the founding fathers intended there be a wall between religion and political life, and they wrote that intention into America’s most important historical documents. To prove his point, the author gathers and reprints those papers here, presenting readers with a selection of texts that support his effectively argued thesis. Garman does a great service by bringing together many primary-source texts crucial to understanding the American debate over church-state issues. Included in his compendium are relevant passages from the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, writings from founding fathers like Madison and Jefferson, and Supreme Court decisions that engage religious issues through the 21st century. These should be required reading for combatants on either side of the debate. However, readers might have benefited from more commentary. The book’s appendices, which contain these primary documents, run to almost 200 pages, while the author’s introductory essay barely exceeds 70. Garman’s logic–while sound–is not so obvious as he would make it seem, and some might welcome more explication. One might also object to his title, The Religion Commandments, which seems to advertise an argument exactly counter to his. Indeed, we oughtn’t keep church and state separate because any document–even the Bill of Rights–commands it. Presumably, the founding fathers did not feel compelled to keep religion and political life separate, but thought it eminently reasonable to do so. This word â€œcommandments” reeks of the totalizing religious forces that the author seems keen to avoid. But if his title is ill chosen, his argument is not, and many may walk away convinced that he is right.
Punchy and persuasive.