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Democracy and the Divine: Re-examining the Role of Religion in the American Public

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Title: Democracy and the Divine: Re-examining the Role of Religion in the American Public
Author: McGravey, Kevin
Advisor: Johnson, Terrence L.
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Religion
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Running Time: 237353 bytes424 bytes
Issue Date: 2008
Abstract: The search for religious freedom led to the founding of the United States. Indeed, freedom of religion is a basic tenet of the United States Constitution, although the meaning of the constitutional protection has been the subject of debate, legislation, and jurisprudence almost since the day the language was written. In this essay I examine the difficulty in placing religion in a pluralist democracy. There is a constant tension between protecting the right of religions to practice freely and avoiding religious wars in the American debate. I will examine the way prophetic tradition within the Black Church presents an example which challenges political philosopher John Rawls' notion that religious reasoning should be completely absent from political discourse. We live in a social climate where the topics of religion and politics are closely entwined. Americans are members of numerous religions and denominations, and because of this diversity of deep religious commitments we must recognize the pivotal role religion plays in politics and understand how religious organizations can contribute to the public discourse. Rawls asks the religious to adhere to some form of rhetoric or reasoning that is totally divorced from their intrinsic religious beliefs, thereby ignoring that which is most important to them. In this paper, I challenge the argument presented by Rawls that religion should be removed from public political discourse and propose that religion, as exemplified by the prophetic tradition of the Black Church, should be allowed to openly speak to our moral consciousness and transform our view of freedom and equality in a just society.
Subject: Freedom of religion -- United States
Subject: African American churches
Subject: Democracy -- Religious aspects
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McGravey, Kevin. "Democracy and the Divine: Re-examining the Role of Religion in the American Public". 2008. Available electronically from

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