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The Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America [Paperback]

Kevin Seamus Hasson

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Book Description

Aug. 14 2012
In the running debate we call the "culture wars," there exists a great feud over religious diversity. One side demands that only their true religion be allowed in the public square; the other insists that no religions ever belong there. The Right to Be Wrong offers a solution, drawing its lessons from a series of stories--both contemporary and historical--that illustrates the struggle to define religious freedom. The book concludes that freedom for all is guaranteed by the truth about each of us: Our common humanity entitles us to freedom--within broad limits--to follow what we believe to be true as our consciences say we must, even if our consciences are mistaken. Thus, we can respect others' freedom when we're sure they're wrong. In truth, they have the right to be wrong.

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Review

“Seamus Hasson is a gifted storyteller who also happens to be a genuine hero of the struggle to make the First Amendment’s promise a reality for members of all religious traditions.” Mary Ann Glendon, professor of Law, Harvard University
 
“This is a rollicking, surprising, wholly original way of presenting the rival arguments for religious liberty in public America.” – Michael Novak, author of No One Sees God

About the Author

KEVIN SEAMUS HASSON is the founder and chairman of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonpartisan, interfaith, public-interest law firm that protects the free expression of all religious traditions. He holds a law degree and an M.A. in theology from the University of Notre Dame and lives with his wife, Mary, and their children in Fairfax County, Virginia.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars James Madison, Meet Ernest Hemingway Oct. 24 2005
By F. E. Guerra Pujol - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Imagine a cross between James Madison, one of our greatest Founding Fathers, and Ernest Hemingway, one of the great modern writers of the English language. If you cannot imagine this, then read this book, for the author writes like Hemingway, as if he were having a friendly conversation with you, but unlike most books about religion and politics, he puts forward political ideas that Madison would most likely approve of.

The author's thesis also has the advantage of being sensible and pragmatic: we should allow for more robust religious pluralism in our society. In many ways, this is precisely the same formula James Madison proposes for secular "factions" (i.e. interest groups).

In the Federalist Papers, Madison correctly notes that "factions" are dangerous, but his originality lies in arguing that we should have more factions, not less, because the more factions there are, the more difficult it is for any one faction to achieve dominance. This is, in effect, what the author proposes for 'religious factions', and I think it is a brilliant solution, a Madisonian solution.

In addition, the author provides a very readable history of religious intolerance on American soil. He gave me a much deeper perspective of the problem than I had before I read his book, and indirectly, he made it easier for me to understand the motives of religious fanatics in the present (especially the problem of intolerance in the Muslim world).
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Religious Liberty and the American Experiment Oct. 15 2005
By Chris B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In this highly readable book, preeminent constitutional lawyer and First-Amendment scholar Seamus Hasson provides a worthy tour of Church-State relations at law in America.

Mr. Hasson brings a wealth of real-life cases that read stranger than fiction, with such amusing examples as the parking-barrier worshippers, and, beyond the levity, brilliant analysis of one aspect of the culture wars.

The book poses provocative questions and points to some principles that may avert our impalement on the horns of dilemma, largely by providing a rare coherent take on the so-called religion clauses of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy multiple copies of this book! Nov. 15 2005
By J. E. Vaino - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If any aspect of religious liberty is important to you, you will absolutely want to read Seamus Hasson's engaging book, and you will want to give away copies to your friends -- and your ideological adversaries (why not? you'll win points for generosity and plant seeds of reason).

Never has so painless a remedy been offered over-the-counter to ease the pandemic of (let's put it kindly) limited grasp of the history and issues at the heart of church-state relations and religious freedom in America. Hasson provides a surprisingly complete and highly-readable narrative that leaves you feeling as if you (finally!) understand where this controversy has been, where it's now stalled, and on what basis it actually can be eased.

The book's ambitious subtitle, "Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America," is just that -- ambitious. But, heaven knows, we need a good snort of ambition to not abandon our national quest and settle in the foggy vale of current judicial confusion over application of the Constitution's minimalist Establishment Clause to the States by its incorporation into the Fourteenth Amendment. Confused already? Well, the courts aren't doing much better.

Hasson points to the historic basis of individual and collective religious freedoms in rights arising from our nature as free beings. Every person must be acknowledged free to follow -- and publicly express -- his or her own conscience, regardless of law. This may seem idealistic, but it holds the clarity and universality lacking in all the other attempted approaches the author colorfully describes.

If, having absorbed the history of "Pilgrims and Park Rangers", the "sacred parking barrier" worshippers, and the other characters Hasson marches across the stage, you can arrive at grappling with the origin and basis of your religious freedom, and your neighbor's, you will have gained something truly important -- and we will all be better equipped to take the promise of liberty forward in this generation.

This right-sized volume should be a great holiday read for you and your friends. The whole book is an unexpected page-turner. Hurrah, Hasson!
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Page Turner Dec 29 2005
By James T. Hill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
By far the best book I've read on religion in America. Hasson is delightfully witty as he skewers both extremes in the culture war. One extreme, "the pilgrims," are people of whatever faith (Muslims, Christians, etc,) who want their religion to the be the only official one. The other extreme, "the park rangers," want to drive all religion from public life. Hasson's solution is to welcome all faiths into the public square.

Hasson is, however, no relativist. He doesn't think that the various faiths that he'd welcome into public life are all somehow true. As he says in his introduction "on any given day, I think most of my clients are wrong. But I firmly believe that...they have the right to be wrong."

Throughout the book Hasson reflects on a series of stories, beginning with arguments aboard the Mayflower and ending with arguments on Al Jazeera. They are, at turns, funny, poignant and tragic, but they are all exceptionally well written. Who would have thought a book on religious liberties would be a page turner...but it is. Buy 2 copies--one for yourself and one for a confused friend.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read! Oct. 23 2005
By Dorinda Bordlee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A witty and disarming book. There is a big provacative idea in each chapter, but it doesn't seem like you're reading a big provactative book. It seems like a book of mostly funny - though some very poignant - stories ("The case of the sacred parking barrier" is worth the price of the book alone!). The Right to be Wrong discusses religious liberty from many standpoints: legal, historical, cultural. But it doesn't feel like a law or history book either. The best book I've read all year - it rings so true, yet is so entertaining that I've bought several copies for gifts (both Christmas, Hanukah, and "Holiday" gifts alike!). It's changed the way I think. Don't miss it.

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