book: separation of church and state
Stephen M. Feldman
stephen-feldman at UTULSA.EDU
Wed Jun 11 10:08:09 PDT 1997
To RELIGIONLAW participants:
I recently published a book on the history of the separation of church and
state. For all those interested, I attach the summary that I placed in the
amazon.com on-line bookstore as well as the abstract that NYU Press is using
on the dust jacket.
TITLE: Please Don't Wish Me a Merry Christmas: A Critical History of the
Separation of Church and State (New York University Press, 1997)
AUTHOR: Stephen M. Feldman
Professor of Law and Political Science
University of Tulsa
e-mail: stephen-feldman at utulsa.edu
SUMMARY: As the subtitle states, this book is a critical history of the
separation of church and state. It also is a book that I was intensely
driven to write. My purpose is to refute the dominant story of the
separation of church and state, which asserts that all Americans equally
enjoy religious liberty and that the separation of church and state is a
unique American contribution to political theory. Contrary to this dominant
story, I show that the separation of church and state has evolved over the
last two millennia and that, in America, the separation of church and state
facilitates Christian cultural imperialism. The title, Please Don't Wish Me
a Merry Christmas, is derived from the last line in the book. I had settled
on this phrase as the concluding line when I first started working on the
manuscript. It captures how I often feel during the Holiday season (which
Holiday is that?) after I have been wished a Merry Christmas for the 500th
time (and it's still November!). I welcome comments about the book (send to
stephen-feldman at utulsa.edu).
NYU PRESS ABSTRACT: Whether in the form of Christmas trees in town squares
or prayer in school, fierce disputes over the separation of church and state
have long bedeviled this country. Both decried and celebrated, this
principle is considered by many, for right or wrong, a defining aspect of
our national identity.
Nearly all discussions regarding the role of religion in American life
accept and build on two dominant assumptions: first, the separation of
church and state is a constitutional principle that promotes democracy and
equally protects the religious freedom of all Americans, especially
religious outgroups; and second, this principle emerges as a uniquely
American contribution to political theory.
In PLEASE DON'T WISH ME A MERRY CHRISTMAS: A CRITICAL HISTORY OF THE
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, Stephen M. Feldman challenges both these
assumptions. He argues that the separation of church and state primarily
manifests and reinforces Christian domination in American society.
Furthermore, Feldman reveals that the separation of church and state did not
first arise in America, either at the time of the constitutional framing or
later. Rather, it has slowly evolved as a political and religious
development through western history, beginning with the initial appearance
of Christianity as it contentiously separated from Judaism.
In challenging the dominant story of the separation of church and state,
PLEASE DON'T WISH ME A MERRY CHRISTMAS follows the historical path of two
institutions--the Christian church and the state--from the origins of
Christianity forward to the present day. Feldman thus focuses on the
workings of power in a specific context: he interprets the development of
Christian social power vis-
-vis the state and religious minorities,
particularly the prototypical religious outgroup, Jews.
ORDERING INFORMATION (from N.Y.U. Press): The book is $29.95 hardcover.
Please call toll-free, 1-800-996-6987 to order the book. Or you can visit
the NYU Press website at http://www.nyupress.nyu.edu and securely place an
order via the web. NYU Press accepts Visa, Mastercard, and Discover as well
as personal checks. All orders must be prepaid. Shipping and handling is
$3.50 for the first book and $1.00 for each additional book within the U.S.
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