ISSN: 1522-5658
Supplement 25 (2024)

Table of Contents

Religion in the Public Square

Edited by Ronald A. Simkins, Creighton University

The Inclusivity of Religious Freedom: An Introduction (pp. 1–4)

Ronald A. Simkins, Creighton University
[ Introduction ]

1. The Three Theologies of Murray v. Curlett: Atheism, Constitutionalism, and Christianity in American Postwar Culture (pp. 5–24)

Thomas Aiello, Valdosta State University
[ Abstract ] [ Chapter 1 ]

2. Only in America: How an Unknown Woman Stepped into the Public Square to Defend Her Son’s Religious Freedom and Became “The Most Hated Woman in America” (pp. 25–40)

Bryan F. Le Beau, Georgetown University
[ Abstract ] [ Chapter 2 ]

3. The Evolving (and Dangerous) Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Use of the Doctrine of Religious Liberty (pp. 41–56)

Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler, Creighton University
[ Abstract ] [ Chapter 3 ]

4. Eating Food Sacrificed to Idols in the Early Church (pp. 57–75)

Dulcinea Boesenberg, Creighton University
[ Abstract ] [ Chapter 4 ]

5. The Privilege of the Forum in Criminal Cases: A Historical Case Study for Roman Catholic Social Ethics (pp. 76–96)

Julia Fleming, Creighton University
[ Abstract ] [ Chapter 5 ]

6. General Bias and Its Time in Thought (pp. 97–118)

Tom Jeannot, Gonzaga University
[ Abstract ] [ Chapter 6 ]

7. A Rural Sustainable Farm as Public Sphere: A Place of Interfaith Action
(pp. 119–36)

Samantha Senda-Cook, Creighton University
[ Abstract ] [ Chapter 7 ]

8. The Revolution is Religious: Religion, Peace, and New Public Spheres in Colombia (pp. 137–58)

Rebecca C. Bartel, San Diego State University
Katerine Alejandra Duque Duque, Universidad Javeriana-Cali
[ Abstract ] [ Chapter 8 ]

9. Three Faces of Public Catholicism in Africa: Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC
(pp. 159–75)

J.J. Carney, Creighton University
[ Abstract ] [ Chapter 9 ]

10. Religion, Politics, and Heterarchy in Tanzania: An Invitation (pp. 176–87)

Kathleen R. Smythe, Xavier University
[ Abstract ] [ Chapter 10 ]

11. Being Mortal: Martin Hägglund’s This Life without the Antinomies, a Review Essay (pp. 188–227)

Theodore Grey Dedon, Creighton University
Tom Jeannot, Gonzaga University
Patrick Murray, Creighton University
Jeanne Schuler, Creighton University
[ Chapter 11 ]

Murray v. Curlett, decided in conjunction with School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, removed the Lord’s Prayer and Bible reading from public schools in 1963. The prevailing national discourse that emerged during the following school year represented a relatively united organization against the ruling, based primarily on moral, rather than legal, grounds. The Supreme Court’s verdict became a target of public outrage, the narrative opposing the Court’s Murray decision creating its own theology, one that tied religious faith to a civic and patriotic idealism disconnected from the teachings of the leader in whose name they so often prayed. In the process, pundits posed American constitutionalism as its own form of theological dogma, one with similar flawed readings of the text upon which the improvised faith tradition was based. Those dogmas were posed against atheism, presented as its own theology, one that also came incumbent with a secular governmental corollary in the form of communism. The battle between atheism, constitutionalism, and Christianity would shape the narrative that would continue to influence public opinion and policy through the rest of the century.
In 1964, Life magazine called Madalyn Murray (O’Hair) “the most hated woman in America.” Another critic described her as “rude, impertinent, blasphemous, a destroyer not only of beliefs but of esteemed values.” This essay presents an assessment of her beliefs and actions, in the culture of the times—the 1950s and 1960s—and how they led her to represent both what Americans hated in their unbelieving enemies and feared in themselves as believers. First gaining notoriety in the 1963 case, Murray v. Curlett, which led to the Supreme Court banning school prayer and bible reading in the nation’s public schools, she launched a crusade against God, or more specifically to assure the complete separation of church and state.
Religious Freedom has become a highly politicized and prioritized principle in the public square and in the USCCB’s doctrinal teaching, replacing another more foundational doctrine, the authority and inviolability of a well-formed conscience. The bishops in the United States have “pioneered a self-serving invocation of ‘religious liberty.’” This self-serving invocation in understanding and prioritizing religious liberty in relation to conscience and magisterial norms is a distortion of Catholic teaching in three ways. First, the USCCB prioritizes its understanding of religious liberty over a well-formed conscience, which is a distortion of the Second Vatican Council’s understanding of the interrelationship between the two. Second, it distorts the relationship between objective norms, such as religious liberty and same-sex relationships, and conscience. Finally, the gravest distortion is the dangerous development of the USCCB’s use of religious liberty to misinform consciences to defend its doctrinal teaching against same-sex relationships.
Many scholars argue that in 1 Corinthians 8–10, Paul directs the members of the ekklēsia in Corinth to avoid idol food only for the sake of the “weak” members who see eating it as idolatry. Beginning my analysis of Paul’s argument not with 1 Corinthians 8, but with 1 Corinthians 10, in which there are no slogans and there is thus less confusion regarding which lines represent Paul’s own position, I argue that Paul is opposed to the eating of idol food any time it is identified as such because he sees this act as communion with demons. Paul begins his argument by instructing the “knowledgeable” to avoid idol food for the sake of the “weak” as a means of persuasion, which not only will promote unity in the ekklēsia but also will convince the “knowledgeable” to adopt the practice that Paul prefers.
For centuries, Roman Catholic theology and canon law claimed that clerics and other “ecclesiastical persons” could not be tried as defendants in secular courts. This practice, the privilege of the forum, provides a test case for contemporary Catholic social ethics. Its general history and selected accounts from Vitoria, Suárez, and Caramuel, illustrate the risks of applying an overly narrow theory to an evolving practice. This record also reminds contemporary social ethics to consider the phrasing and context of our questions, the significance of questions we overlook, and our ethical response to the social sin flowing from unintended consequences.
General bias varies with various contexts. This paper investigates some manifestations of general bias among specialists in English-speaking professional philosophy. In turn, St. Pope John Paul II claims that “Philosophy . . . is the mirror which reflects the culture of a people.” In the 2020 PhilPapers Survey, substantial majorities identified as metaphilosophical naturalists (50.2% v. 31.1%) and as physicalists (51.9% v. 32.1%). A supermajority agreed that there is a “hard problem of consciousness” (62.4%) and a supermajority identified as atheists (66.9%). “Dogmatic scientific realism, various forms of materialism, compatibilism, and atheism [are] the unquestioned default positions” (Hanna 2013). General bias is manifest in at least three dimensions: a nearly complete separation of philosophy from theology; a nearly total withdrawal of credit from the notion of the supernatural; and a nearly permanent agnosticism concerning the metaphysical notion of personhood. If these are counterpositions, the key to their reversal is the notion of interiority.
The Asian Rural Institute (ARI), based in Tochigi, Japan, is a Christian-based nonprofit. The goal is to train people from around the world—particularly those from countries that have been negatively impacted by colonization—to grow their own food sustainably. I argue that at ARI, interfaith action cultivates public sphere dialogs through the nature and closeness of the work, the trust and (sometimes) affinity that develops, and the space for productive conflict. Interfaith action and dialog play a role in daily life at ARI by enabling it to function as what Catherine Squires (2022) calls a satellite public sphere in this rural place.
This article considers the construction of new and alternative publics in Colombia following the 2016 Peace Accords. Through practices of reconciliation based on collective economic practices, and the moral imperatives that motivate them, this paper traces the discourses and practices of belief that sustain the possibility of peaceful publics in Colombia. Specifically, this essay considers the ways new publics and counter-subjectivities are being created, among others, by communities of victims and former guerrilla combatants in the southwestern region of Colombia. These initiatives to “create anew” emerge as strategies to generate innovative social, political and, above all, economic relations aimed at territorial restoration amid ongoing violence, and to further generate conditions of peacebuilding. Whereas civil wars annihilate the plural public sphere, peace requires multiple publics that are committed to reimagined social relations and economic structures that serve the public good, and guarantee that debate, conflict, disagreement, and negotiation can occur without the use of violence.
Public religion assumes a variety of diverse expressions in Africa, the continent with the most Christians and fastest-growing Catholic population in the world. Through the lenses of reconciliation, development, and democratization, this article analyzes public Catholicism in three of Africa’s most Catholic countries: Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These three “public faces” of Catholicism reflect the social, cultural, and economic strengths of the church in deeply religious countries. Whatever its extensive public engagement, however, the Catholic Church in the African Great Lakes region has struggled to sustain a prophetic witness in the midst of semi-authoritarian, patronage-based political systems. Notwithstanding the manifold cultural and social differences, the African Catholic public witness contains important lessons for Catholic leaders operating in the U.S. context.
Authoritarianism is on the rise; politics is as divisive as religion; and apathy is great across the globe. In this context, any avenue for greater democratic political effectiveness should be considered. In this paper, I will examine the historical and more recent evidence in Tanzania of the benefit of religious identities, values, and organizations as part of governance and policy decisions, as part of a more effective democracy. Religion and religious organizations are ubiquitous and religious leaders have historically played an important role at the national level. In fact, religious leaders are often trusted more than politicians. I conclude that they very well might have the long historical experience necessary to imagine a political future that is both spacious enough for religious identities and values to play a role but stable enough for such identities not to become exclusively political.