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The New Christian Right and the Death of Secularism as Neutrality in the United States

Author(s): Robert Daniel Rubin

Journal: Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies
ISSN 1583-0039

Volume: 5;
Issue: 13;
Start page: 68;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Keywords: New Christian Right | Secularism | political liberalism | U. S. Constitution

Over recent years religious conservatives in the United States have fervently contested the idea of a liberal, secular public sphere. This article urges scholars to consider that contest in light of the history of the New Christian Right (NCR) of the late 1970s and 1980s. NCR activists, intellectuals, lawyers, and government officials advanced a critique of Rawlsian political liberalism, one charging that public institutions were not the bastions of neutrality supposed by American liberals. Contrary to the U.S. Constitution’s ban on an establishment of religion, this critique alleged, cultural elites and judges had lifted the “religion” of secular humanism up to a preferred status while attempting to purge the public sphere of Christianity. Focusing on a pair of federal court cases from the 1980s, this article considers one of the NCR‘s most fascinating strategies––defining as a “religion” the very secularism meant to contain religion to private life.
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