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Divided By Faith

12:30 Seminar

When Alexis de Tocqueville toured the United States in 1830 he described the unique American tension of religion and democracy as a “harmonization of heaven and earth.” One might suspect that if Tocqueville returned today and witnessed the searing inferno of rhetoric regarding church and state he might invoke a different metaphor.  Although church and state are kept separate by the US Constitution, religion and politics are often connected in a number of ways and mutually influence each other.  A glance at the major news stories of the past year—Supreme Court nominees, justification of war, and stem cell research—shows that American society continues to live in the tension of the first amendment. This course will be rooted in the first amendment:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”  This brilliant statement has been interpreted in a number of ways and still leaves us with the question:  where is the proper place for religion in American society?  Issues of the necessary relationship between church and state were debated by the Founding Fathers and are still hotly contested today in number of settings.  Students will be asked to enter into the Church/State debate and to think creatively about how to from a better society. They will examine contributions from Native American traditions, religious thinkers and activists, constitutional framers and theorists, and the implications of significant court decisions.  Historical and contemporary church/state dilemmas will be examined and critiqued as we seek to form a more civil society. This course connects most closely to the themes of civil society and politics, law, and citizenship in Pacific Seminar I.