Competing schemas within the American liberal democracy : an interdisciplinary analysis of differing perceptions of church and state.
Access changed 8/26/15.
The current understanding of liberal democracy in many academic circles includes a set of restraints on the types of justification that are accepted for the creation of coercive legislation. There is much debate over which sources should be accepted to publically justify laws touching on education and morality. Many believe that religious beliefs are outside of public reason, and they are, thus, inadequate to justify the formation of coercive laws. The reason for this is that many people perceive religious reasoning as irrational, divisive, and dangerous. Because of this perception, religion has by and large been relegated to the private sphere. The perception of religious reasoning as irrational, divisive, and dangerous has also become firmly engrained in the legal community. Because of this, state and federal courts tend to treat legislation that is organically connected to religion as a violation of the Establishment Clause. This dissertation argues that this perception of religion is incomplete. Those who perceive religion as irrational, dangerous, and divisive somehow do not recognize its reasonable, peaceful, and unifying aspects. Furthermore, the problems popularly attributed to religious reason are not unique to religion. Secular reasoning can also be irrational, dangerous, and divisive. Ultimately, religious reasoning may indeed have a place in the formation of coercive legislation that is tolerable to its detractors. The incorporation of religious reasoning does not entail an all-out theocracy as many might fear. Given that the fundamental principles of liberal democracy are often grounded on religious premises, to require restraint of religious reasoning would be to remove the foundation of liberal principles on which this country stands. Furthermore, it would violate a key tenet of liberal democracy that all should be treated free and equal by placing a burden on the religious citizen that is not shared by the non-religious citizen.