The role of religion in American social and political life is an ever-present element in our civic conversation. The recent controversy over the contraception mandate ignited a smoldering conflict over just this issue.
On the one side, people of faith decry the government’s violation of their First Amendment rights to practice freely their religion and express publicly their beliefs. On the other, secularists protest against the intrusion of faith-based belief into public policy, which they interpret as a violation of the “separation of church and state,” presumably warranted by the same First Amendment. Whether the issue is the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings or legislating restrictions on abortion, this clash of beliefs illustrates just how fundamental religion remains in our political dialogue.