FAITH IN AMERICA
Political Theory’s Logic of Autonomy
and Logic of Congruence
NANCY L. ROSENBLUM
American institutions and political thought reflect the historically momentous separation of government from theology and divine revelation. We have imperfect separation of church and state. But we do not have anything like separation of religion and politics. Americans’ religiosity is measurable and intense,1 and so are the political participation of citizens qua believers, advocacy by religious groups, and constitutional litigation on behalf of religious claims. The past several decades of religious politics in the United States and abroad have startled political theorists into thought,2 jogging us to contemplate the significance of politically active religion for democracy. In this chapter, I take a step back from the immediate questions asked by political scientists: whether and how religion fuels the current partisan divide, for example. Instead, I focus on the foundational questions political theorists pose. I speak of “questions” in the plural because political theorists have arrived at divergent judgments of the urgent question before us. Is it whether democracy in America is hospitable to flourishing religious pluralism? Or is it whether religion is compatible with robust democracy here? Political theorists are divided about what should be our orientation and guiding concern—making democracy safe for religion or making religion safe for democracy?
Those who think that the challenge is American democracy’s will to ensure a generous, supportive environment for religion begin with the idea of autonomous religious communities and assign religious membership equal standing if not priority over citizenship. This parity is captured in the thought that Americans are “dual citizens.” On these grounds, theorists justify religious exemptions from general laws and accommodation of religious activities, public funding of religious schools and programs, and full-voiced political engagement by religious activists on behalf of their causes. I call this position “the logic of autonomy.” In