Separation of Church and State is one of the distinctive marks of American democracy, and yet also continues to be a contentious part of our history … Here are some excellent books on separation of church and state that help us get our bearings.
Frank Lambert tackles the central claims of the Religious Right “historians” who insist that America was conceived as a “Christian State,” that modern-day “liberals” and “secularists” have distorted and/or ignored the place of religion in American history, and that the phrase “the separation of church and state” does not appear in any of the founding documents and is, therefore, a myth created by the Left. He discusses what separates “bad” history from “good” history, and concludes that the self-styled “historians” of the Religious Right create a “useful past” that enlists the nation’s founders on behalf of present-day conservative religious and political causes. Through the use of selective quotations lifted out of context and interpreted through faulty logic, the result is a politicized religious history that says more about the Religious Right than it does about the nation’s founders. Lambert believes that the most effective means of critiquing such misuse of history is sound historical investigation that considers all the evidence, not just that which support’s an author’s biases, and draws reasonable conclusions grounded in historical context. The result exposes the Religious Right “history” as fabrications and half-truths. In fact, one of the foundational principles of the Constitution is that of separation as the key to safeguarding freedom: separation of powers, separation of federal and state governments, and separation of church and state.
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