Wednesday, June 29, 2005

When inclusion amounts to exclusion :: NYT Magazine

Increasingly, the symbolism of removing religion from the public sphere is experienced by values evangelicals as excluding them, no matter how much the legal secularists tell them that is not the intent.
. . .
the evangelicals' political strength has not often extended to the cultural realm, about which values evangelicals care the most. These evangelicals feel defensive not only because they believe they are losing the culture war and have trouble enacting religious values into public policy -- though, in fact, they have made some strides on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage -- but because they have difficulty making the religious sources of their ideas acceptable in the cultural-political conversation. To give a religious reason for passing a law is still to run the risk of that law being held unconstitutional as serving a religious rather than a secular purpose. So evangelicals end up speaking in euphemisms (''family values'') or proposing purpose-built dodges like ''creation science'' that even they often privately acknowledge to be paradoxical.
. . .
Until the rise of legal secularism, Americans tended to be accepting of public, symbolic manifestations of faith. Until values evangelicalism came on the scene, Americans were on the whole insistent about maintaining institutional separation. These two modern movements respectively reversed both those trends.
. . .
Noah Feldman is a professor at the New York University School of Law and a fellow at the New America Foundation. His book ''Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem -- and What We Should Do About It,'' from which this article is adapted, will be published later this month by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.


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