Liberty of Conscience: In Defense of America's Tradition of Religious Equality
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Liberty of Conscience: In Defense of America's Tradition of Religious Equality

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  59 ratings  ·  15 reviews
In one of the great triumphs of the colonial and Revolutionary periods, the founders of the future United States overcame religious intolerance in favor of a constitutional order dedicated to fair treatment for people’s deeply held conscientious beliefs. It granted equal liberty of conscience to all and took a firm stand against religious establishment. This respect for re...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Basic Books (first published February 4th 2007)
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The author of Liberty of Conscience is one of those books that (so far) has been a joy to read because it so closely echoes my own beliefs and ideas about what the separation of church and state (not to mention religious freedom) is all about. The author has presented her thoughts and ideas in a clear, scholarly way that argues for the founding fathers intention to build a country that "respects the preciousness and dignity of the individual human conscience and the equality of all religions (or...more
Aug 06, 2008 Ekkeko rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Legal philosophers
Recommended to Ekkeko by: A Librarian
I've learned that while the Establishment/Free Exercise clause is plainly written, it's interpretation is always in question. The ideal of free exercise of conscience has always and will always be under attack by those people who benefit from it being in place. Each generation must preserve and enhance this basic fundamental U.S. ideal.

The other thing I've learned is that Ms. Nussbuam needs a better editor. There are some really fascinating chapters in the book, but it starts off as a history bo...more
Even though the culture wars are less prominent this election because of the economy they are still out there. This book traces the development of our freedom of conscience from colonial America and Roger Williams through the First Amendment up to todays' Supreme Court decisions. Martha Nussbaum does a fine job of presenting the diverse opinions about constitutional law and freedom of conscience philosophy. She has her own viewpoints which I agree with. I'm sure many people who have a better gra...more
Praised by Paul Weithman, author of Religion and the Obligations of Citizenship, as “Historically informed and philosophically sophisticated, thoroughly accessible and elegantly written…A shining example of American public philosophy at its best,” Liberty of Conscience is a historically based argument that equal respect for all citizens is the bedrock of America’s tradition of religious freedom. Weaving together political history, philosophical ideas, and key constitutional cases, this is a rich...more
A nice read, particularly for anyone interested in some of the more legal history surrounding the First Amendment's religious clauses and the dual protection of free exercise of one's religion and freedom from the government imposing a particular religion. I tend to do a fair amount of constitutional law work, particularly with the First Amendment, so there wasn't much in the book that surprised me, but its a definite read for anyone wanting to understand the legal history of the issues that are...more
Dana McCallum
A nuanced and scholarly (but nonetheless accessible) examination of America's constitutional religious freedoms: their history, implications, and philosophical basis. My only complaint is that Nussbaum's treatment of the nonreligious is inconsistent. She tries very hard to portray nonreligious conscience as deserving equal respect, and for the most part she succeeds, but there are moments (for example, a passage claiming that morality requires religious foundation) when she reveals some disdain...more
This is a book about the American legal tradition around freedom of religion written by a well known philosopher. I had never read anything by Nussbaum and tried this after reading a feature about her in the NY Times magazine. It is very clearly written and thoughtful. It is obvious that there is a long intellectual tradition on these issues of which I am not overburdened with knowledge, but I learned much from this book and wanted to read more by Nussbaum.
I give this book three stars not because I agree with the author's argument. However, I am glad that she wrote the book and articulated her position well because it provides the opportunity for a meaningful engagement with the liberal tradition that she defends. I believe that this liberal tradition has fatal flaws. This book puts them forward for all to see.
She repeats herself a lot in this one and is definitely trying to reach a broader reading audience. It's a little rocky as far as sticking to her audience, but overall I would highly recommend this one to those who think that removing the word "God" from the pledge of allegiance would be the cataclysmic sign of the apocalypse.
When, and why, did the title change? My copy is subtitled "In Defense of America's Tradition of Religious Equality".
Jun 27, 2008 Sally added it
Shelves: postponed
Interesting particularly for its survey of US court cases dealing with various aspects of this subject.
Very intersting. So far it has explained how religious freedom began in American.
Jeff Sharlet
My review of this will appear in 2008 spring books issue of The Nation.
Keith Sader
Tour de force of the religious history of the U.S.
323.44 Nus
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Professor Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, appointed in the Philosophy Department, Law School, and Divinity School. She is an Associate in the Classics Department and the Political Science Department, a Member of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, and a Board Member of the Human Rights Program. She is the founder and...more
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