What you think you know about church and state in America and why it’s wrong

David Sehat gives us five myths about church and state in America:

1. The Constitution has always protected religious freedom.

2. The founders’ faith matters.

3. Christian conservatives have only recently taken over politics.

4. America is more secular than it used to be.

5. Liberals are anti-religious.

Read the whole piece to see how he defends these.

I appreciate David’s work because he does such a good job of outlining Protestant cultural power during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My current research focuses on the boundaries of the Protestant establishment that David has outlined in his Myth of American Religious Freedom. I’m digging into Hindus as a representation of the outside of America–the dark, heathen, other–and David has done a great job investigating the inside of American culture and the ways Protestant moralists managed that inside. I also appreciate his provocative flair.

Buy his book.

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2 Comments on “What you think you know about church and state in America and why it’s wrong”

  1. JNR says:

    I loved reading it on Sunday, but I had some problems with myth #4

    • On the idea that we are more religious than we used to be, I think it depends on how you measure “religious.” If you are going with the common term “adherence” then I think he’s right. I put Sehat alongside Jon Butler and others that have argued for a coercive Christianiztion of America during the 19th century. But if you take a more (Durkheimian) cultural approach and define “religious” more broadly, then I think our “religiousness” is pretty constant. It’s just might be the religion of consumerism, sports, what have you.


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