Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Impossibility of Religious Freedom

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Impossibility of Religious Freedom

Article excerpt

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM by WINNIFRED FALLERS SULLIVAN Princeton University Press, 328 pages, $29.95

A valuable contribution to "churchstate" studies, a genre of which there likely will be no end. Sullivan, a dean at the University of Chicago's Divinity School, served as an expert witness in a 1999 federal case in Florida, Warren v. Boca Raton. People had for years put religious symbols on the graves of their relatives in a cityowned cemetery, and the practice was challenged by the usual suspects as a violation of the no-establishment provision of the First Amendment. Using this case as her centerpiece, the author explores the difficulties, if not impossibility, of defining "religion" for legal purposes, and of making a distinction between "high religion" with clear sacred texts, church-like hierarchies, and authoritative traditions, on the one hand, and the "low religion" of popular piety evident in the cemetery symbols. …

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