Religion, State, and Society: Jefferson's Wall of Separation in Comparative Perspective. Edited by Robert Fatton Jr., and R. K. Ramazani New York: Palgrave/ Macmillan, 2009. 240pp. $90.00.
The eleven essays which comprise this volume originated at a conference held in March 2007 at Prague. The conference was sponsored by the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. The purpose of the conference, and the resulting edited collection, was to analyze the separation of church and state in the United States and in other settings, using Thomas Jefferson's metaphor of a "wall of separation" as an intellectual springboard.
The volume is divided into three parts. The first, which contains essays by Peter Onuf, Jack R. Rakov, Robert M. O'Neü, and A. E. Dick Howard, ostensibly analyzes issues associated with church-state separation in the United States, although Howard's essay appUes the "waU" metaphor to other settings, such as AustraUa and Canada. The second part, entitled "The Wall of Separation and Western Perspectives," deals primarily with church-state relations in Europe. This section, which consists of essays by Adam B. Seligman, John T S. Madeley, and David Martin, develops distinctions between the United States and European nations, which often have explicitly religious roots and public policies that accommodate reUgious institutions. A final section includes three essays by Wüliam B. Quandi, Ann Elizabeth Meyer, and Nathan J. Brown on the Islamic nations of the Middle East, as well as a chapter on church-state relations in Israel, which is co-authored by David H. Goldberg and Bernard Reich.
The chapters that comprise Religion, State, and Society are of a uniformly high quality, and several contain interesting and counterintuitive insights. For example, Peter Onuf's chapter, "Thomas Jefferson's Christian Nation," makes an mtriguing argument that Jefferson's project in promoting church-state separation was not based on his ostensible agnosticism, or on a concern for an abstract individual Uberty, but rather was based on a desire to promote what Jefferson took to be a "natural" or ethical Christianity, rather than religion based on institutionalized …