At the center of our history of church and state is a troublesome irony. What began as an attempt to guarantee religious tolerance in the new world has at various times been commandeered by the most chauvinistic movements America has known. In spite of this, religious liberty has survived as an American ideal—one which we continue to test.
We live in a world of increasing religious pluralism—diversity beyond the imagining of our nation’s founders—which suggests fresh nuance to the meaning of religious liberty. This much is clear: our modern conversation has few connections to the social, political, and religious impulses that led to the First Amendment.
Host Krista Tippett and her guests revisit the history and meaning of separation in thought-provoking and, at times, unsettling ways. Charles Haynes talks about his work in the American public school system—the arena in which our modern debates often center. Philip Hamburger describes his research into the surprising, and largely forgotten, origins of separation of church and state. And, Cheryl Crazy Bull speaks about the loss and reemergence of religious expression in tribal public life.