The line between religion and government may be vague, but Americans revolt when they sense it's being crossed. Take the current controversy surrounding the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. In April, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement, "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty," warning against unprecedented threats to religious freedom from the government. Evangelicals and Catholics Together—an ecumenical group of pastors, theologians, and educators—published its own manifesto in First Things, calling for the renewal of religious freedom "in the greatest period of persecution in the history of Christianity." Of course, several women's rights groups responded by accusing the church of conducting a war on women. In case we needed a reminder, the culture wars continue to blaze.
But occasionally in times of war, peacemakers emerge. Michael Meyerson, a legal scholar at the University of Baltimore School of Law, is just such a peacemaker. His latest work, Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America (Yale University Press), seeks a sane middle ground between those who believe the First Amendment prohibits any type of support for religion (whether symbolic or financial) and "accommodationists" who believe the Constitution permits government to assist and even endorse religion. For Meyerson, the way to mediate this controversy is through re-examining American history. He asks, "What did the framers of the Constitution believe about religious freedom?" In this meticulously researched book devoid of the usual partisan bickering, Meyerson argues it's possible to protect both individual ...1