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

Martha C. Nussbaum
  • Review
By – January 3, 2012
Lib­er­ty of Con­science offers a fresh and his­tor­i­cal look at the tra­di­tion of reli­gious equal­i­ty in the Unit­ed States. Nuss­baum starts with the philoso­phies and the ide­olo­gies of our country’s founders. This enlight­en­ing foun­da­tion gives con­text to the strug­gles of the emerg­ing com­mu­ni­ties in the New World, which Nuss­baum recounts skill­ful­ly and in detail. 

Per­haps the most inter­est­ing parts of this book, how­ev­er, are those sec­tions that build upon the philo­soph­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal foun­da­tion to address mod­ern day con­tro­ver­sies over free­dom of reli­gion. These con­tro­ver­sies include top­ics of inter­est to peo­ple of all reli­gious back­grounds: polygamy, pub­lic dis­plays of the Ten Com­mand­ments, evo­lu­tion, and gay mar­riage. Of course, First Amend­ment law fig­ures promi­nent­ly in Nussbaum’s dis­cus­sions of these con­tro­ver­sies, but her voice shines through, pro­vid­ing inter­pre­ta­tion that clear­ly chal­lenges her audi­ence to ques­tion the assump­tions upon which our opin­ions con­cern­ing those con­tro­ver­sies are based.

Read­ers should be aware that Lib­er­ty of Con­science is, at bot­tom, a book about law and phi­los­o­phy. Those with some back­ground in either field will find this book a reward­ing and chal­leng­ing read. Index, index of cas­es, notes.
Rachel Sara Rosen­thal is an envi­ron­men­tal attor­ney in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Orig­i­nal­ly from Greens­boro, North Car­oli­na, she grad­u­at­ed from Duke Uni­ver­si­ty in 2003 and Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law in 2006.

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