How Does the Constitution Protect Religious Freedom?

By Robert A. Goldwin; Art Kaufman | Go to book overview

2

Religion, the Constitution,
the Court, and Society:
Some Contemporary Reflections
on Mandates, Words,
Human Beings, and
the Art of the Possible

Henry J. Abraham

When I wrote the first edition of my Freedom and the Court, now almost two decades ago, 1 my publisher, the Oxford University Press, for the first and only time in what has been an association of more than thirty years, requested that I change a substantive opinion I had penned, on the grounds that it would give needless and unwise offense to readers: My perceived offense was the statement "Like love and war, religion makes no sense except to those who embrace and practice it." Reluctantly, I agreed to remove the offender in favor of an elaborate footnote in which I outlined what I regarded as my own ecumenical experience. 2 Yet the contemporary scene is witness to the patent quotidian fact of life that my observation, however irreverent or flippant it may well be considered, does indeed inform significant aspects of the continuing separationist-accommodationist controversy.

A firm, let alone a permanent, resolution of the controversy, be it on constitutional, legal, political, or, for that matter, pure common sense grounds, is highly dubious at best. That pessimistic assessment is realistic, however, not only because of the long-time uncertainties concerning the meaning of constitutional language, the attendant inconsistencies of judicial interpretation, and the often spotty manifestations of societal compliance with apposite judicial orders and legislative mandates but also because of the absolutist stances of

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