Public Attitudes toward Church and State

By Ted G. Jelen; Clyde Wilcox | Go to book overview

5

Attitudes toward
the Free Exercise
of Religion.

In this chapter, we turn our attention from attitudes that appear to involve questions of religious establishment to those pertaining to the free exercise of religion. It seems reasonable to expect that attitudes toward religious free exercise will appear less consistent and sophisticated than those associated with the question of religious establishment. As we argued in chapter 1, the establishment clause has been the main axis of contention between separationists and accommodationists in legal discourse. Specifically, the main difference between the two opposing legal perspectives has been a dispute concerning the scope of the establishment clause. To the extent that mass opinion reflects public political controversy, this political clarity appears to have resulted in the simple, easily interpretable patterns reported in chapter 4.

We will see below that the concept of religious free exercise is a powerful symbol for many Americans, but the applications of the free exercise principle are seldom clear or free from extraneous considerations. As some of the focus-group material in the preceding chapter revealed, issues of religious free exercise are often intertwined with questions of religious establishment. In many concrete cases, the question of which religion clause is operative is precisely at issue. Are courts that deny purely religious holiday displays preventing unlawful religious establishment, or are they interfering with the free-exercise rights of the community? Do prohibitions on organized prayer in school constitute "coercion" of religious minorities and therefore con-

-113-

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Public Attitudes toward Church and State
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xiii
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Note xvii
  • 1 - Religion, Politics, and the Constitution 1
  • Notes 26
  • 2 - Religion and Politics: a Contested Public Space 28
  • Notes 54
  • 3 - Abstract Views of Church -- State Relations 57
  • Notes 75
  • 4 - Concrete Views of Church-State Establishment 76
  • Notes 111
  • 5 - Attitudes Toward the Free Exercise of Religion. 113
  • Notes 140
  • 6 - Conclusion 142
  • Notes 156
  • Appendix 159
  • References 171
  • Index 181
  • About the Authors 190
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