Soper et al., “The Challenge of Pluralism”

In February, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers will release “The Challenge of Pluralism: Church and State in Six Democracies,” by J. Christopher Soper (Pepperdine University), Kevin R. den Dulk (Calvin College), and Stephen V. Monsma (Calvin College).  The publisher’s description follows:

In a thoroughly revised and expanded edition that now includes France, this essential text offers a rigorous, systematic comparison of church-state relations in six Western 9781442250420nations: the United States, France, England, Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia. As successful and stable political democracies, these countries share a commitment to protecting the religious rights of their citizens. The book demonstrates, however, that each has taken substantially different approaches to resolving basic church-state questions. The authors examine both the historical roots of those differences and more recent conflicts over Islam and other religious minorities, explain how contemporary church-state issues are addressed, and provide a framework for assessing the success of each of the six states in protecting the religious rights of its citizens using a framework based on the ideal of governmental neutrality and evenhandedness toward people of all faiths and of none.

Responding to the general confusion about the relationship between church and state in the West, this book offers a much-needed comparative analysis of a topic that is increasingly a source of political conflict. The authors argue that the US conception of church-state separation, with its emphasis on avoiding government establishment of religion, is unique among political democracies and discriminates against religious groups by denying religious organizations access to government services provided to other organizations. The authors persuasively conclude that the United States can learn a great deal from other Western nations in promoting religious neutrality and the free exercise of religion.

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