Secular or Christian? Exploring the Competing Narratives of Religion in America
Politicians in the United States are expected to embrace their religious tradition while simultaneously keeping it at arms length. Constituents want elected officials to be transparent about their faithbut react critically if religious leaders have undue influence over political decisions. And while Americans are dedicated to the principle of religious liberty, surveys show that the majority also believes America is a Christian nation. What is the proper role of religion in American politics? And how has this role evolved since the nation’s founding?
On October 10, Brookings Senior Fellow William Galston moderated a discussion of Religion in America: A Political History, by Denis Lacorne, senior research fellow with the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales at Sciences Po, Paris. Lacorne traced two narratives of religion in America: one embracing the strict separation of church and state, the other recognizing faith as a fundamental part of American identity. After Lacorne’s presentation, Patrick Deneen, director of The Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy at Georgetown University, joined the conversation.
This event is part of the Governing Ideas series intended to broaden the discussion of governance issues through forums on timely and relevant books on history, culture, legal norms and practices, values and religion. After the program, panelists took audience questions.
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Free speech shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but it has been drawn into the larger dynamics of polarization in this country.