In April, Cambridge University Press will publish Beyond Church and State: Democracy, Secularism, and Conversion by Matthew Scherer (Union College). The publisher’s description follows.
Secularism is often imagined in Thomas Jefferson’s words as ‘a wall of separation between Church and State’. This book moves past that standard picture to argue that secularism is a process that reshapes both religion and politics. Borrowing a term from religious traditions, the book goes further to argue that this process should be understood as a process of conversion. Matthew Scherer studies Saint Augustine, John Locke, John Rawls, Henri Bergson and Stanley Cavell to present a more accurate picture of what secularism is, what it does, and how it can be reimagined to be more conducive to genuine democracy.
Cecile Laborde (University College London) has posted Equal Liberty, Non-Establishment, and Religion. The abstract follows.
Egalitarian theories of religious freedom deny that religion is entitled to special treatment in law, above and beyond that granted to comparable beliefs and practices. The most detailed and influential defense of such an approach is Christopher Eisgruber and Lawrence Sager’s Religious Freedom and the Constitution (2007). In this essay, I develop, elucidate, and show the limits of the reductionist strategy adopted by Eisgruber and Sager. The strategy requires that religion be analogised with other beliefs and practices, according to a robust metric of comparison. I argue that Eisgruber and Sager fail to develop a consistent and coherent metric, and I further suggest that this failure is symptomatic of the broader difficulty encountered by liberal theory in fitting the concept of religious freedom into a broadly egalitarian framework.