- Introduction: Religious Pluralism as the Essential Foundation of America’s Quest for Unity and Order
- The Founding Era (1774–1797) and the Constitutional Provision for Religion
- Eighteenth-Century Religious Liberty: The Founding Generation’s Protestant-Derived Understanding
- Church and State in Nineteenth-Century America
- Religious Advocacy by American Religious Institutions: A History
- Constitutional Language and Judicial Interpretations of the Free Exercise Clause
- The U.S. Supreme Court and Non-First Amendment Religion Cases
- The Meaning of the Separation of Church and State: Competing Views
- Managed Pluralism: The Emerging Church–State Model in the United States?
- Religious Liberty and Religious Minorities in the United States
- Religious Symbols and Religious Expression in the Public Square
- Religious Liberty as a Democratic Institution
- Pursuit of the Moral Good and the Church–State Conundrum in the United States: The Politics of Sexual Orientation
- Monitoring and Surveillance of Religious Groups in the United States
- The U.S. Congress: Protecting and Accommodating Religion
- The Christian Right and Church–State Issues
- American Religious Liberty in International Perspective
- Supply-side Changes in American Religion: Exploring The Implications of Church–State Relations
- Peeking through Jefferson’s Relocated Wall: A Sociological Assessment of U.S. Church–State Relations
- The Role of Civil Religion in American Society
- The Interplay of Law, Religion, and Politics in the United States
- Historical Perspectives
- Constitutional Perspectives
- The States and Religious Freedom
- Theological and Philosophical Perspectives
- Religious Pluralism
- Ethics and Values
- Political Perspectives
- Sociological Perspectives
- Table of Cases
Abstract and Keywords
This article discusses the significance of civil religion in American society. Religion is a distinctive feature in the political life of the United States. While the majority of Americans feel that it should be accorded greater influence in the nation's life, the U.S. Congress, however, mandates a clear boundary between organized religious bodies and civil society. This demarcation is stressed in Article VI and the “establishment” and “free exercise” sections of the First Amendment, wherein it is highlighted that no religion may be given preferential treatment and that every U.S. citizen has the right to practice their beliefs without interference from the state. Nevertheless, religiosity seems to be all-pervasive in American civic institutions, a situation that has attracted scholars of the twentieth century and which has give rise to the coinage of the term “civil religion.” The focus of this article is on civil religion—its definition, its historical background, and its meaning within the American context. It also discusses the recent issues surrounding civil religion.
Richard V. Pierard is Professor of History Emeritus, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana. He served on the Indiana State University faculty from 1964 to 2000, and then spent 6 years at Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts as a scholar in residence and Stephen Phillips Professor of History. He is currently a visiting lecturer at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies, Bangalore, India. He was a Fulbright Professor at the University of Frankfurt (1984–1985) and the University of Halle-Wittenberg (1989–1990), both in Germany, and a visiting lecturer at the University of Otago, New Zealand (2002). Among his many books are, The Unequal Yoke: Evangelical Christianity and Political Conservatism (1970, new edition, 2006), Civil Religion and the Presidency (with R. D. Linder, 1988), The American Church Experience: A Concise History (with T.A. Askew, 2004, new edition, 2008), and Baptists Together in Christ: A Hundred-year History of the Baptist World Alliance (2005). Dr. Pierard lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
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