The Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America Paperback – Aug 14 2012
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“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.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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).
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!
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.
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.
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