Using a key religious freedom Act, the book analyzes legislative process, Supreme Court jurisprudence, and discusses the role of religion in public life.
Using a key religious freedom Act, the book analyzes legislative process, Supreme Court jurisprudence, and discusses the role of religion in public life. “Religious Free Exercise and Contemporary American Politics” explains why the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) had to undergo a major metamorphosis in order to win approval. The book uses this episode as a window onto the dynamics of modern constitutional politics, specifically the constitutional politics of free exercise. The book argues that, although free exercise of religion remains an important value in American politics, it has been severely buffeted by both liberal individualism and identity politics. The former equates religious “choice” with all other types of choices one makes in life, the latter sees religious identity as equivalent to racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientation identities. These two views coalesced in the late 1990s to force major modifications in the proposed Religious Liberty Protection Act, succeeding in limiting its reach only to prisoners and land use disputes.
Written in an accessible manner for students of politics and religion as well as constitutional politics and law, the book offers a unique perspective on religious freedom in American politics.
Jerold L. Waltman
is R.W. Morrison Professor of Constitutional Studies, Department of Political Science and Adjunct appointment, J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He also serves as Associate Editor for the Journal of Church and State (Oxford University Press) and is the author or editor of many books.