So you want to understand religious liberty? This is a wonderful subject for intellectual exploration. Your journey may take you into history, law, politics, culture, literature, and even theology. All of these subjects tend to be distorted for political or religious gain when it comes to understanding religious liberty, so whatever you do, read carefully, and understand the biases and beliefs of the author you are reading. Read critically. Read more than one source.
When questions arise, feel free to e.mail us, and engage us in your journey. The Church State Council takes seriously its obligation to train and equip local community leaders to protect and defend religious freedom. You cannot “proclaim liberty throughout” your community if you are not mature and balanced in your understanding. The list below is not offered as an unqualified endorsement of the contents of each book. Instead, the books present a variety of perspectives, and may express values or positions contrary to those of this organization. They are included because they are believed to be of significance and value. You will certainly find fruitful reading in the list below.
Finally, a disclaimer. The list is somewhat random. No doubt, there are valuable books and topics missing. Feel free to offer suggestions. The list is a work in progress. But there is more than enough here to keep anyone busy for a long time, and profitably so. Also, we have made every effort to include books that reflect both a liberal and a conservative slant, not because either side represents the views of the Church State Council, but because we live in a highly polarized culture war climate, and understanding the perspectives and passions of both sides is important.
– Alan J. Reinach, Esq.
No Place to Hide. Robert O’Harrow, Jr. Washington Post reporter “provides an authoritative and vivid account of the emergence of a “security industrial complex” and the far reaching consequences for ordinary Americans…an alarming vision of the future uncannily reminiscent of the world imagined by Orwell in 1984.” Can’t wait to read it!
Nemesis: the Last Days of the American Republic. Chalmers Johnson. The latest from the author of Blowback and The Sorrows of Empire. While Adventists will disagree with the predicted demise of the United States, Chalmers is part of “The American Empire Project,” by a group of lefties, that eerily charts what many Adventists will see as prophetic trends in the development of the U.S. from being “lamb-like” to speaking “as a dragon.” See Rev. 13:11, 12.
Politics and Prophecy: The Battle for Religious Liberty and the Authentic Gospel. Christa Reinach and Alan J. Reinach, Esq., editors. Chalk this one up to the “shameless commerce” division of the Church State Council, but we are big believers in our own book. We produced this in order to meet a need: a single volume to convey a unique integration of Protestant theology with current issues. It has been edited especially with the general reader in mind. You won’t get bogged down in these stimulating and inspiring chapters. Check it out!
Church – State Matters: Fighting for Religious Liberty in our Nation’s Capital. J. Brent Walker. The author is executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the nation’s oldest Baptist public policy organization. He writes about the issues and battles he has been engaged in while serving for many years in Washington, D.C. as one of the foremost watchdogs on religious liberty issues.
Religious Liberty in America: Political Safeguards. Louis Fisher. The author is a scholar at the Library of Congress. Unlike many books that focus on legal developments, this book focuses on the politics of defending religious freedom. A refreshing and valuable approach.
Christianity and the State. R.J. Rushdoony. This is perhaps the briefest work by the founder of modern Christian Reconstructionism, a movement seeking to reshape American law and culture on the basis of biblical norms. It provides the best introduction to this school of thought.
The Separation of Church and State. Forrest Church. A prominent Unitarian minister and religious liberty advocate has collected some prominent colonial American writings pertaining to the subject. This is a marvelous introduction to the likes of Patrick Henry, Sam Adams [not the founder of a brewery]] , Isaac Backus, George Mason, and of course, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. A very helpful collection.
American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century. Kevin Phillips. I admit it. I’m a big fan of Kevin Phillips. I think he is dead on target on all three fronts: religion, oil politics and bad money. This book predated the economic meltdown that followed, almost presciently so. His critique of American policy in the mid-east, and the hazards of American religion deserve serious consideration. For what it’s worth, he may be on the secular side of things, but he is also a political conservative.
Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament, How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America. Randall Balmer. Our list includes a number of volumes from what we have dubbed the “anti-theocrats.” Balmer’s is perhaps the best written and most important. He is himself a prominent evangelical, an associate editor at Christianity Today, and a professor of American Religious History at Barnard College, Columbia University.
Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson. America’s foremost conservative columnist and a founder of the Christian Coalition teamed up to issue this 1999 admission that the battle for the soul of America was a lost cause. This is a critique of the Christian political movement from two who have defected from the pinnacle of its leadership.
Why You Can’t Stay Silent: A Biblical Mandate to Shape our Culture. Tom Minnery. Our reading list includes plenty of volumes that are critical of the Religious Right. Here is one in defense of the political agenda. Tom Minnery has been a leader at Focus on the Family for many years, at the heart of this movement to mobilize grassroots support.
Tempting Faith: An inside story of Political Seduction. David Kuo. An evangelical and staffer inside the Bush Administration’s faith-based initiative wrote this “tell-all” critique of how this program was shaped by politics, rather than the desire to truly shape the delivery of social services.
Statecraft as Soulcraft. George F. Will. Our reading list includes both liberals and conservatives. Will is among the most thoughtful and prominent of conservative voices addressing these issues today.
Power Religion: the Selling Out of the Evangelical Church. Michael Horton, editor. This is a collection of articles by prominent evangelicals critical of the cult and covetousness of power within the church. Contributors include: John H. Armstrong, Charles W. Colson, J.I. Packer, and R.C. Sproul.
A Christian Manifesto. Francis A. Schaeffer. The author is the spiritual father of the Religious Right, and this is the volume that mobilized a generation of Christian political activists, whether or not that was the intent. Read it for yourself, and see what you think.
The Second American Revolution. John W. Whitehead. The author served as attorney for Francis Schaeffer, and wrote this book in 1982. It was one of the early calls to arms for Christians in politics. The author has since disavowed much of this philosophy, but his early work remains an important one to understand the development and perspectives of the Religious Right.
The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans for the Rest of Us. Rabbi James Rudin. The author is a renowned Jewish leader in interfaith circles, and has a good grasp of his subject. His concerns about the Religious Right may offend some evangelicals, but the Jewish perspective on current Christian religio/political trends deserves a fair hearing.
Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. Michelle Goldberg. This represents one of the better secular critiques of the Religious Right, although it is shrill and anti-religious at times. It certainly gives a bird’s eye view into how the secular left views the religious right.
Deadly Detours: Seven Noble Causes that Keep Christians from Changing the World. Bob Briner. A concerned evangelical pastor writes from his heart about the need to eschew politics and return to the gospel. His causes include: Squabbling over Prayer in Public Schools, Making Jesus a Right Winger, Shutting Down the Abortion Clinic, and Fighting for Family Values.
God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government. Gary Scott Smith, ed. This is a collection of scholarly articles on the application of Reformed theology to the relationship between church and state.
Blasphemy: How the Religious Right is Hijacking Our Declaration of Independence. Alan Dershowitz. The articulate, arrogant and accomplished Harvard law professor has been an ardent advocate of the separation of church and state. This volume is one of many critical of the political activism of the religious right. Dershowitz represents a liberal segment that has taken separation of church and state to a point of practical hostility to religious freedom. Many of his criticisms, however, deserve consideration. Christian conservatives do well to confront the criticism with a humble and teachable spirit, as a learning opportunity. Of course, that does not mean accepting the criticism uncritically. This book will make some angry, others applaud, and everyone will find it easy to read.
Kingdoms in Conflict: An insider’s challenging view of politics, power, and the pulpit. Charles Colson. An early volume by one of the leaders of the Religious Right, in which he clearly sees some dangers of seeking to build public policy, and especially foreign policy, on biblical and prophetic interpretation. Classic Colson.
The First Liberty. William Lee Miller. This is perhaps the best single volume telling the story of our founding fathers and the development of religious freedom in the colonial era, by a scholar from the University of Virginia, birthplace of so much history.
The Establishment Clause: Religion and the First Amendment. Leonard W. Levy. This volume is a favorite to understand the meaning of the Establishment Clause to the ones who drafted it. What were the issues in colonial America that the First Amendment was intended to address? Whether or not you believe in arguments about “the intent of the framers” or “original intent,” it is instructive to recover an authentic colonial perspective. This book will surprise many in its analysis and conclusions.
Church and State in America. Edwin S. Gaustad. This is part of a 17 volume series from Oxford University Press on Religion in American Life. It is a superb basic overview of two centuries of history and law.
American Gospel. Jon Meacham. Rarely does a book about religion in America make it to the NY Times bestseller list. It helps if you are the editor of Newsweek. Jon Meacham has written a very readable, historically balanced and valuable book about religion in the new republic, and religious liberty. This is a great place to start your studies and reading. It also has a marvelous appendix of important documents in the history of religious liberty.
Neither King nor Prelate: Religion and the New Nation 1776 – 1826. Edwin S. Gaustad. Gaustad is very readable and accurate in recounting essential history of the colonial period.
Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America. Edwin S. Gaustad. Roger Williams is the one who originated the concept and language about a wall or hedge of protection between church and state. The founder of Rhode Island, the life and thought of Williams is crucial to the development of religious freedom in America, and highlights the profound role played by Protestant theology.
The Search for Christian America. Mark A, Noll, Nathan O. Hatch and George M. Marsden. These prominent evangelical and Catholic scholars have teamed up to provide a readable discussion of the historical record pertaining to the Christian nation debate. Both advocates and critics of the Christian nation enterprise will find things to love and hate about the book. But it is readable and helpful.
The First Freedoms: Church and State in America to the Passage of the First Amendment. Thomas J. Curry. A valuable resource in many respects, although it reflects a bias in favor of non preferential aid to religion, an unsurprising bias given the author’s Catholic background.
Night. Elie Wiesel. This author and humanitarian is the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Among his most gripping books is this very short, poignant autobiographical narrative about his experience as a young man in the Nazi concentration camps. We cannot afford to forget what inhumanity man has produced. This book is a great place to start remembering. It is deeply moving.
Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment. John Witte, Jr. The reviewers quoted on the back cover give this book high marks. The author is director of the law and religion program at Emory University, Atlanta, and a specialist in legal history and religious liberty.
The Story of Religion in America. William Warren Sweet. A classic, first published in 1930.
Adventism and the American Republic: The Public Involvement of a Major Apocalyptic Movement. Douglas Morgan. A Seventh-day Adventist historian examines the role of his own church in public policy issues.
The Catholic Church and the Holocaust. Michael Phayer. The Catholic Church has had a difficult relationship with the Jewish community over a very long period of time. Repeated offenses by the church have deeply alienated Jews. To understand the divide between Jews and Christians, one must begin to grapple with the history, including the troubling subject of this book.
Original Intent: Chief Justice Rehnquist and the Course of American Church/State Relations. Derek Davis. We hear a great deal about “original intent” these days, and how the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution according to what the founding fathers intended. Derek Davis is one of the foremost American scholars of church/state law and history, having served as the director of the church state studies program at Baylor University. Davis does an excellent job of explaining the significant impact that Rehnquist has had on the development of constitutional law of church/state relations.
The Yoder Case: Religious Freedom, Education and Parental Rights. Shawn Francis Peters. One of the high marks for the free exercise of religion in the Supreme Court was its decision exempting Amish children from compulsory attendance at high school. This book recounts the story of that amazing case.
Why Churches Should Not Pay Taxes. Dean M. Kelley. The author was one of the towering figures in the interfaith and religious freedom community during his lifetime. Today, as secular scholars increasingly question various religious tax exemptions, this book remains a classic defense of a basic part of the separation of church and state, protecting the independence and autonomy of religious bodies.
Battleground: One Mother’s Crusade, the Religious Right, and the Struggle for our Schools. Stephen Bates. What happens when a mother wants to exempt her children from reading books in public school that she believes are Satanic, and in conflict with her religious beliefs and values? What happens when a community is torn apart by conflict over its schools, a conflict that rages in the courts in a small town in Tennessee? Bates does a marvelous job of telling the story.
Church Discipline and the Courts. Lynn Buzzard and Thomas S. Brandon, Jr. The issue of church discipline can be explosive, and is certainly quite sensitive. How a church handles discipline issues, the conflicting rights of individual church members to privacy and to avoid reputational injury as against a church’s associational rights and right to exercise discipline provide a fascinating and difficult area for the law to address. The authors are lawyers and experts in the field.
Mere Creatures of the State? A View from the Courtroom. William Bentley Ball. One of the most prominent lawyers handling religious liberty cases gives a highly readable account of cases, with his perspective on the crucial religious liberty issues at stake.
America’s Secret War: Inside the Hidden Worldwide Struggle Between America and Its Enemies. George Friedman, founder of Stratfor. The author is founder and chairman of a prominent private intelligence company, providing intelligence analysis and services to multinational corporations. This is a 2004 volume assessing the underlying issues in the global conflict.
Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life. Ted Gup. One of the quotes on the back cover: “Nation of Secrets sounds the alarm about America’s frightening turn toward excessive secrecy…” Written by an investigative reporter who has written for the Washington Post and Time Magazine.
Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World. Trevor Paglen. The world of “black ops” exists in geographical space. There is a geography to secrecy. This is a very good read, from a professional geographer, about his journeys to chart the geography of our secret world, and the “war on terrorism.” Read about his trek to the edges of Area 51, where he can spy on the spies. Or about his charting the daily plane loads taking off from Las Vegas to deliver workers to secret sites in the Nevada desert. Or read about the secret room built onto the telephone trunk lines so that all of our phone calls can be screened by the NSA. Whatever your views on national security, this is a fun read.
Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy. Charlie Savage. The separation of powers has become a major theme in our nation today. Presidents of both political parties have amassed enormous power in the executive branch, power that threatens liberty and privacy quite broadly, including religious liberty. In this volume, an acclaimed investigative journalist makes a gripping story out of what most people would think of as dry legal principles.
School Prayer: The Court, the Congress and the First Amendment. Robert S. Alley. A scholar of church and state has compiled an impressive collection of resources on the topic of prayer in public school, including excerpts from Congressional hearings conducted after the Supreme Court’s ruling in the early 1960s. If you want to have a better understanding of what the Court did, and how America responded, this volume will be enormously helpful.
The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today. Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter. This is the first volume we have found addressing this crucial topic. The North American Religious Liberty Association has been actively supportive of legislation to address the modern problem of slavery. Find out what’s really going on next door! The authors are scholars and activists.
The Strange Career of Jim Crow. C. Vann Woodward. Written by a renowned Yale historian, this volume may help us remember that no right is an island. Religious intolerance and persecution are part of a larger fabric that includes racial and ethnic prejudice and bigotry.
Welfare Reform & Faith-Based Organizations. Edited by Derek Davis and Barry Hankins. This book was produced by the nation’s foremost academic program devoted to religious freedom, the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church State Studies at Baylor University, and edited by its former director and a distinguished professor. It contains chapter submissions reflecting a diversity of responsible views on how public funding of religious charities has developed, and the constitutional issues and values at stake.
Fear: The History of a Political Idea. Corey Robin. Karl Rove was not the first political operator to make use of fear tactics. It is a tried and true strategy, and sadly, all too often successful. Today, fear of another terrorist attack has derailed our national commitment to freedom. A better understanding of fear, its history and utility as a political weapon is most timely and relevant.
Homosexuality in History and the Scriptures. Ronald M. Springett. This is published by the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. It is a thorough discussion of the topic from a biblically responsible viewpoint, and certainly relevant to the public policy debates today over this topic.
Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk. Mathew D. Staver. The author is president and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, a prominent Religious Right legal organization. If you’re interested in the arguments against same-sex marriage, this book is an excellent place to start.
The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today. Alan Sears & Craig Osten. Alan Sears is the president and chief legal counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, a significant conservative legal and policy organization, and his co-author is a colleague there. This book provides insight into the growing conflict between gay rights and religious liberty from a Religious Right perspective.
So Help Me God. Roy Moore. The Ten Commandments judge himself, telling the story of his legal battles over posting the Ten Commandments in his court room, and on display in the Alabama Supreme Court.None