Pluralism, Dialogue, and Freedom: Professor Robert Rodes and the Church-State Nexus
24 Pages Posted: 11 May 2007
The idea of church-state separation and the image of a wall are at the heart of nearly every citizen's and commentator's thinking about law and religion, and about faith and public life. Unfortunately, the inapt image often causes great confusion about the important idea. What should be regarded as an important feature of religious freedom under constitutionally limited government too often serves simply as a slogan, and is too often employed as a rallying cry, not for the distinctiveness and independence of religious institutions, but for the marginalization and privatization of religious faith.
How, then, should we understand church-state separation? What is the connection between separation, well understood, and religious freedom? What is the place, or role, of religious faith, believers, and institutions in the political community governed by our Constitution? With respect to these and so many other interesting and important questions, the work of Professor Robert Rodes has been and remains a help, a challenge, and an inspiration.
This essay is an appreciation, interpretation, and application of Professor Rodes's church-state work. In particular, it contrasts the church-state nexus that he has explored and explained with Jefferson's misleading but influential wall metaphor. After identifying and discussing a few of the more salient features of this nexus, it closes with some thoughts about how the leading themes in Rodes's law-and-religion writing can help us better understand and negotiate one of today's most pressing religious freedom problems.
Keywords: Church & State, Rodes, church autonomy, religious freedom, First Amendment, free exercise, establishment of religion
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation