Cover image for The American myth of religious freedom
The American myth of religious freedom
Craycraft, Kenneth R., 1962-
Publication Information:
Dallas : Spence Pub., 1999.
Physical Description:
xi, 202 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
KF4783 .C73 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
KF4783 .C73 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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There's no such thing as religious freedom under the American Constitution, argues Kenneth Craycraft. In a liberal regime, "toleration" never puts religion and secularism on an equal footing. Though questioning the religious foundations of our political order, this reassessment of the First Amendment reveals the deeper sources of hope for the church in America.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Theologian Craycraft argues that "there is no such thing as religious freedom. The reason that such an assertion sounds so shocking to us is that we have been so completely formed by the American myth." As a secular political culture, America embraces religious freedom only within certain boundariesÄreligious orthodoxy is not allowed to threaten the secular basis of government, and therefore orthodox practitioners do not enjoy the same degree of religious freedom as more secular citizens. The Catholic church, for example, is a patently undemocratic institution and therefore fundamentally at odds with U.S. political and legal rhetoric. Craycraft examines the logic of the Constitution, court struggles, published public opinion, and the work of other scholars to support his thesis. A careful reading of this work will aid in understanding the debate, but it will not resolve the tension arising from this conflict of belief. Recommended for academic collections and all libraries in communities where this is a current issue.ÄGeorge Westerlund, Providence P.L., Palmyra, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Craycraft relies on postmodernist intellectuals to support the proposition that the American liberal theory of religious freedom is a two-sided myth. It parades as a series of neutral principles protecting the autonomy of church and state to enlist the support of religious believers. Craycraft argues that post-1950s church-state jurisprudence has revealed Jefferson and Madison's real intent to subordinate religious belief to secular rationality, a project initially articulated in John Locke's Letter on Toleration. For Craycraft, the anticlericalism and anti-Catholicism of Locke, Madison, and Jefferson deny both "authentic" religious freedom and "authentic" transcendence because, in making individual choice and religious pluralism itself sacred, they deny "the freedom of the church to name itself and act accordingly." This book is the mirror image of Stephen Feldman's Please Don't Wish Me a Merry Christmas (CH, Jun'97), which argues from the same postmodernist premises that religious freedom in America has always been a thin cover for a hegemonic and culturally imperialistic Christianity. Unlike Daniel Elazar's Covenant and Civil Society (CH, Ap'99) and Steven D. Smith's Foreordained Failure (CH, Jun'95), which explore the varied history of religion and politics in American law, Craycraft requires that philosophical texts and American political and religious history itself be understood ironically to bridge the gap between politico-theological truth and the democratic assent of a religious people. Upper-division undergraduates and above. E. J. Eisenach; University of Tulsa