Vol. 10 No. 10 (October 2000) pp. 534-537. OBLIGATIONS OF CITIZENSHIP AND DEMANDS OF FAITH: RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATION IN PLURALIST DEMOCRACIES by Nancy L. Rosenblum (Editor). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000. 438 pp. Cloth $70.00. ISBN 0-691-00707-1. Paper $19.95. ISBN 0-691-00708-X.
Reviewed by John Paul Ryan, President, The Education, Public Policy, and Marketing Group, Inc. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The relationship between religion and politics is being tested once again in a highly visible way in this year's presidential election. Al Gore and, especially, George W. Bush are running campaigns that highlight faith- based personal commitments. Most important, in choosing Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an orthodox (observant) Jew who frequently invokes spiritual tones in his speeches, to be his running mate, Gore has helped to renew a broad- ranging public discussion about the place of religion in politics.
Lieberman's selection coincides with a growing movement that seeks to restore the place of religion and morality in politics. The secularization of American society, and the accompanying denigration of religious values in the public square, was much lamented by law professor Stephen Carter in THE CULTURE OF DISBELIEF in 1993. Now, there appears to be a growing sentiment to connect matters of faith and personal belief with public policy issues. Nancy Rosenblum characterizes this movement as "integralism," which she believes is one of the most significant recent developments in American politics. Her anthology, OBLIGATIONS OF CITIZENSHIP AND DEMANDS OF FAITH, explores these and other developments in the complex relationships among religion, politics, and democratic theory, both in the United States and other countries, through a set of essays by well-known scholars of various ideologies.
It does not take long for the dialogue and disagreements to begin. The opening essay by Alan Wolfe provides an empirical foundation for the interpretive essays to follow. Drawn from his survey work in ONE NATION, AFTER ALL, Wolfe's conclusions about the prevalence of "quiet faith" in middle-class America squarely collide with one of Rosenblum's key premises. Wolfe finds no interest in "politicizing" religion in the eight communities (far from a random sample of Americans, I might add) he surveyed, even among Americans of deep faith. Indeed, Wolfe finds not only no yearning for more religion in the public square, but considerable discomfort with religious fanaticism invading the discussion of policy issues. Like most Americans, though, his interviewees are inconsistent in their beliefs. Many oppose efforts to banish the public display of religious symbols or prayer at celebratory events, placing them at odds with U. S. Supreme Court decisions of the past twenty years.
One of the strengths of this anthology is that there are some good exchanges of different points of view between the contributors. One example is
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the exchange between law professor Michael McConnell and several other contributors. McConnell articulates a clear and succinct statement of his preferences for a religiously pluralistic rather than secular state, while comparing and contrasting the views of such political theorists as Rousseau, Locke, and Madison. Theologian Graham Walker critiques McConnell from the right (something that doesn't usually happen). Walker generally agrees with McConnell's analysis, but also believes that McConnell does not go far enough in his proposed remedies, choosing to stay inside the "liberal compound of First Amendment jurisprudence." Walker argues that it would be less hypocritical for the United States to foster some form of "partial establishment." In this view, religious neutralism or secular liberalism would be the established public theology (religion), but there would also be explicit protections for "believers," such as those provided by countries like Poland and Israel, where in his view a form of partial establishment already exists.
Amy Gutmann joins the argument with McConnell in a cogent discussion, one that defends the appropriateness and constitutional foundation of "two- way protection" - i.e., protecting religion from intrusions of the state and protecting the state from intrusions of religion. Gutmann distinguishes between an absolutist and non-absolutist view of two-way protection, by discussing the permeability of the "wall" of church/state separation. She forthrightly defends her view that a non-absolutist vision is the best and most historically accurate view of the Founders' vision. In the course of her analysis, she deftly examines key Supreme Court decisions, judicial reasoning, and how the cases square with her own distinctions. Sympathetic though she is to "free exercise" claims, she concludes that if the Court grants too many exemptions (i.e., accommodations) for religious groups or individual believers, the public choices of democratic government will be undermined.
In subsequent essays, political theorist H. N. Hirsch and legal historian Aviam Soifer add well-reasoned arguments in favor of a more expansive view of religious freedom than the recent or current Supreme Court. In particular, both are critical of the Court's decisions in EMPLOYMENT DIVISION v. SMITH (1990) and CITY OF BOERNE v. FLORES, (1997) as are some other contributors. Hirsch criticizes the Court's inability to recognize and weigh adequately "social facts" that contradict the Court's view -- burdens on religion become "incidental," and evidence of burdens becomes "anecdotal." Soifer criticizes the Court for its inattentiveness to the full sweep of American history, including the debates among many of the Founders that led to the formation of the First Amendment. He also critiques the Court's recent efforts to curtail the Congressional authority to enforce constitutional rights.
More generally, both Hirsch and Soifer argue that the competing needs of believers and the general public welfare have not been balanced very well, with too much consideration given to the "compelling interests" of the state. In fact, many public law scholars would argue that this is one part of a larger story of constitutional law in the post-Warren Court. The balance between individual rights and the state has clearly shifted toward the state for many substantive areas of policy (most notably, vis-...-vis criminal suspects/defendants). In this jurisprudential view, religious expression is not a special target of the Court's views on liberty, or, for that matter, on federalism or the separation of powers.
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The anthology concludes by offering cross-national perspectives on religious freedom. Two contributors use the case of India as a point of departure. Political and constitutional theorist Gary Jacobsohn explores how and why India proscribes explicit political appeals based upon religion, by analyzing the "corrupt practices" section of a 1951 election law that prohibits appeals to vote for or against candidates on the basis of religion, race, caste, etc., as well as appeals that promote "enmity or hatred" among different groups. Jacobsohn concludes that there is "something special about the secular character of the Indian polity [i.e., the cultural pervasiveness of religion and the potential for religious-based conflict], which . justifies restrictions on religious speech." In the United States, Jacobsohn notes, the First Amendment generally precludes such statutory restrictions (as our recent experiences with somewhat comparable "hate speech" codes suggests). While Jacobsohn's analysis is interesting, his "nation-specific" conclusion may suggest - incorrectly in my view - that attempts to build cross-national theories about secularism and religious freedom are doomed.
Martha Nussbaum also uses India as an example of the tensions between religion and women's equality, arguing that these clashes are especially critical in countries, like India, where religions are culturally powerful and "run large parts of the legal system." She uses three cases drawn from the Indian courts or Parliament from the past fifty years (with regrettably little discussion about criteria for selecting these cases) as a way of outlining her own approach for best resolving such conflicts. Nussbaum makes some important points along the way, including the significance of diverse and dissenting voices within established (and frequently-patriarchal) religious traditions. Nonetheless, for all three of her cases, she finds that the claims for religious freedom were outweighed by women's best interests. Although she painstakingly articulates general principles that include sympathies for religious conscience, it's not clear when or where these might prevail.
No anthology, even one that runs well beyond 400 pages, can be all- inclusive (nor can any review; there are also contributions from Kent Greenawalt on religion jurisprudence, Yael Tamir on religious hate speech, Carol Weisbrod on women and international human rights, and Rosenblum herself on religious autonomy and pluralism). Despite the inevitable repetition that accompanies readers, this book -- and the 1998 conference from which it was drawn -- certainly contains a diversity of voices and perspectives. Still, I found some things missing. For example, Stephen Feldman (PLEASE DON'T WISH ME A MERRY CHRISTMAS, 1997) offers a distinctive perspective on this topic, questioning just how high the wall of separation really has been in the U.S. from the viewpoint of outsider religious groups. Then, too, the phrase "religious pluralism" is bandied about by a number of the contributors, but not much discussed. In this vein, some of the most interesting work comes from Harvard comparative religion scholar Diana Eck. In her CD-ROM, ON COMMON GROUND (1997), she uses ethnographic research and a multi-media approach to document, and analyze the cultural significance of, the many "new" religions that the post-1965 wave of immigrants have brought from their homelands to American communities, large and small.
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Rosenblum's editorial hand in this anthology is standard but modest. The progression of essays is reasonable enough, but organizing the essays into a few groups, perhaps accompanied by short introductions, would have helped in an anthology this lengthy. Several essays, including Nussbaum's, are much too long, while other contributions are probably too truncated for readers to fully grasp the arguments.
Overall, the book's dedicated attention to "religious accommodation" - even from unwavering civil libertarians and human rights advocates -- suggests that we do have here in the United States a different political landscape, one in which the role of religion and faith-based groups is being re-examined and re-evaluated. Our secular traditions and rhetoric have emerged in significant part in response to the claims of non-believers, who sought protection from the intrusions of religion(s). Rosenblum's anthology gives a new and thoughtful voice to believers and to the significance or value of their beliefs for democratic polities and civic engagement.
Stephen L. Carter. 1993. THE CULTURE OF DISBELIEF. New York: Basic Books.
Diana L. Eck. 1997. ON COMMON GROUND: WORLD RELIGIONS IN AMERICA. New York: Columbia University Press.
Stephen M. Feldman. 1997. PLEASE DON'T WISH ME A MERRY CHRISTMAS: A CRITICAL HISTORY OF THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. New York: New York University Press.
CITY OF BOERNE v. FLORES, 117 S. Ct. 2157 (1997).
EMPLOYMENT DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES OF OREGON v. SMITH, 494 U. S. 872 (1990).