We, the Enemy
The Liberal State & the Decline of Pluralism
The modern idea of religious liberty assumes that it is the state above all that threatens such freedom—by establishing a state church or hampering the free practice of religion—and that the modern liberal state, in proclaiming its studied neutrality, its distance from religion altogether, is the ultimate protector of such liberty.
How deeply the liberal state is really committed to genuine religious liberty—at what point “neutrality” becomes hostility—is an open question. But genuine liberty also depends on “civil society”—communities and institutions that exist independent of, and in many ways prior to, the state.
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James Hitchcock is Professor emeritus of History at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He and his late wife Helen have four daughters. His most recent book is the two-volume work, The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life (Princeton University Press, 2004). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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