Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Believers, Thinkers, and Founders

This is not the type of book I would normally choose to review, but with both my kids studying history and our household loud with discussions about law and politics, I found myself gravitating towards BELIEVERS, THINKERS, AND FOUNDERS: How We Came To Be One Nation Under God by Kevin Seamus Hasson.

This small book begins with a court case I'd never heard about: Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow. Newdow, an atheist, objected to his daughter having to recite the pledge of allegiance with the words "under God." Since one could never say "under Jesus" why was "under God" allowed? I wondered the same as well once I learned that the phrase was added in 1954!

The short answer seems intuitive after you read the book: "Under Jesus" implies a particular religion whereas "under God" is a philosophical statement. It's an appeal to the "natural rights/natural law philosophy" that appears in documents 400 years before the Pilgrims arrived in the New World!  

Hasson writes very clearly and goes over the relevant bits in American history, from the Declaration of Independence to the First Amendment to the Gettysburg Address to other court cases dealing with the expression of religion. His argument for the Philosopher's God is excellent. By reason alone, we can say there is a God. But Who He is, is a matter of faith.

A chapter is devoted to what we commonly think of as separation of church and state. Hasson reminds us that it's a shorthand referring to the Establishment/Free Exercise Clause: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  

The author is the founder of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and this gem of a book is perfect for high school students who are learning to make arguments and anyone else interested in religious freedom. I'm very thankful to Blogging for Books for providing me with a review copy.

1 comment:

Mirka Breen said...

Superb recommendation, Vijaya.