Barry’s Bookshelf

Check here regularly for my analysis of new books on law and religion.

Brian Leiter, Why Tolerate Religion?  (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), ISBN-10: 0691153612, ISBN-13: 978-0691153612

Stephen V. Monsma & Stanley W. Carlson-Thies, Free To Serve: Protecting The Religious Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2015), 198 pages.  ISBN – 978-1-58743-373-3  $18.69 Canadian at Amazon

Faith-based organizations ability to freely express their religious convictions is threatened more than ever and such threats are on the rise.  However, Monsma and Carlson-Thies assure us that there is hope. They optimistically suggest that the American pluralist society has room for all to live together despite “deep differences.”  Religious and non-religious alike benefit when freedom is protected for all faith-based organizations.  However, religious freedom is challenged when religiously motivated people are denied freedom to allow their faith-based organizations to carry out their faith in the “public realms of health care, education, and services to the needy.”

Monsma and Carlson-Thies’s Free to Serve is timely and necessary.  The pressure on faith-based organizations to conform to a secular ideology that results in the diminution of their religious character is intense.  The concept of the “public” has proven to be dynamic.  Religious communities have established education, healthcare and other centres to meet societal needs for millennia.  It is not as if they are new to the field.  Such endeavours were long considered “private,” that is to say, religious and defined by the religious group that established the entity.  If there is anything new, it is the notion of a nation-state seeking to be the sole provider of such services and thereby removing faith-based organizations, or at the very least lessening their religious identity to conform to the dominant secular ideology.  Though this book is US centric it addresses issues that are salient throughout the Western World.

It is a great primer and needs to be read not only by law and religion academics, legal practitioners and those leading faith-based organizations but also by the general public.  Its language is easily accessible.