Religious Symbols and Religious Expression in the Public Square

T. Jeremy Gunn

in The Oxford Handbook of Church and State in the United States

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780195326246
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Religious Symbols and Religious Expression in the Public Square

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Although religion has long played an active role in American public life, and continues to play a role in politics in the United States, warnings that it is under attack and at imminent risk of being stripped from the public sphere have been issued repeatedly since the 1980s. While the number of those who advocated the religious discourse should be excluded from public debates, the calls to defend religions's right to be present in the public sphere is prevalent, despite the slight possibility of its disappearance. This fear stemmed from the governmental promotion of religious messages. The true danger lies not in the possible elimination of religious expression, but rather in the possibility that government-sponsored religious displays will receive imprimatur of constitutionality of the faulty assumption that such displays have always been part of American life. This article discusses religious symbols and religious expression in the public square. It provides a historical overview of some of the major forms of religious expression and religious symbolism that have been promoted by government entities since the founding of the United States. The article also discusses the current constitutional law on government-sponsored religious expression and the law regarding religious expression by “private” individuals in the “public sphere.”

Keywords: American public life; public debates; public sphere; governmental promotion; religious expression; religious displays; religious symbols; constitutional law; religious expression

Article.  17055 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Comparative Politics

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