Monday, May 31, 2010

Book by former Rolla reporter

Here's a news announcement I received recently for a book written by a former reporter with the Rolla Daily News, Bruce T. Murray:

The Texas State Board of Education recently approved new social studies standards that call into question the separation of church and state.

Voters in the city of Lancaster, Calif., overwhelmingly approved a measure in favor of the City Council’s practice of opening its meetings with prayer.

The House and Senate passed resolutions approving the inscription of the words, “In God We Trust” and “One nation under God” in prominent areas of new Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.

The Texas board’s action has generated substantial controversy; and both the Lancaster measure and the Capitol Visitor Center issue have elicited lawsuits.

All of these actions represent, in various forms, reactions and counter-reactions to the decades-long trend toward the removal of religious symbols and expression from the public sphere. The ongoing self-regenerating conflicts are part of the broader “culture wars” in America, pitting those who favor greater inclusion of religious expression in public life against those who favor secularization and a strict separation of church and state. The battles are fought out in the courts, the media and the public square (i.e. “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas.”)


The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, analyzes the culture wars in the context of America’s longstanding debate over religion in public life. The controversy, as Murray shows, is nothing new. For more than 200 years, Americans have disagreed about the proper role of religion in public life and where to draw the line between church and state. In this volume, Murray re-examines these debates and distills the volumes of commentary and case law they have generated.

“As an issue that touches almost every human life – in America and beyond – the debates about religious freedom and their applications are far from ‘purely academic’, rather they have real, on-the-ground consequences. It seems necessary then that the history and current concerns regarding religious freedom in America be clearly understood prior to weighing in on the contentious contemporary debates. This is precisely the task of Bruce T. Murray’s 2008 work, Religious Liberty in America; one that he accomplishes with impartiality and insight.”
Brandon M. Crowe, Ph.D., School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Arizona State University
(from Reviews in Religion & Theology, History and Sociology of Religion, Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Vol. 17, Issue 2, 2010)

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