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Naked in the Public Square

The recent battle over the removal of a 5,280-pound monument to the Ten Commandments placed in the lobby of the Alabama Supreme Court by Chief Justice Roy Moore has deep religious and civil roots stemming from the Protestant Reformation and provides an excellent historical study of religion, law, and public policy in America.

Two recent works contextualize Chief Justice Moore’s position, as well as other hot-button cultural issues such as education vouchers, charitable choice, and family law.  Religion Returns to the Public Square: Faith and Policy in America is a collection of essays that explains how religion has historically interacted with American politics in the formation of public policy; Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teaching of the Lutheran Reformation explores the effects of Martin Luther’s theory of two kingdoms, one sacred and the other secular.  Both volumes confirm the existence of a Protestant ethos in America that once called on civil officials to promote religion as part and parcel of their sharing in the common priesthood of all Christians.  This ethos survived intact at least until the middle of the 20th century.  Chief Justice Moore and his supporters represent a vestige of the original American understanding, before separation of Church and state came to be regarded as an impregnable wall.

The secularism that now seeks hegemony in American law and...

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