Church and State

Documents Decoded

by David K. Ryden and Jeffrey J. Polet


Contrary to what some may believe, the U.S. Constitution does not contain any language about a "separation of church and state."

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Cover image for Church and State

December 2017


Pages 284
Volumes 1
Size 8 1/2x11
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/General

This thoroughly annotated document collection gives students and researchers an authoritative source for understanding the evolving political and legal relationship between church and state from colonial times to the present day.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The Establishment Clause, meanwhile, declares a position of neutrality not only between differing religions, but between religious and nonreligious beliefs. The terms of the Free Exercise Clause, however, provide special protections to religious belief and practice. Thus the provisions of the two clauses can clash. In fact, differing political and legal interpretations of these clauses have resulted in some of the most hard-fought and contentious philosophical battles in American history.

This book provides readers with convenient access to pertinent documents and court cases that enables a deeper understanding of the past and current balance between church and state and its political implications in the 21st century. The expert commentary that accompanies these key documents serves to elucidate how interpretation of the U.S. Constitution affects issues such as whether public funds or other public support should go to religious-based schools or hospitals; how to safeguard individuals' rights to religious expression while also considering how individuals should not be forced to participate in mandatory religious expressions in public institutions; and how the language regarding "separation of church and state" came about, when this phrase does not appear anywhere in the Constitution.


  • Presents a balanced, fact-based examination of the myths and facts regarding church-state relations in the United States
  • Provides students and other readers with a one-stop collection of pertinent documents and court cases, the understanding of which is greatly enhanced by extensive but accessible annotations
  • Offers an extensive bibliography of books, periodicals, films, media, and websites
Author Info

David K. Ryden is professor of political science and department chair at Hope College. He has published numerous books and articles on such topics as the Supreme Court and the electoral process, religious liberty, faith-based sector/governmental partnerships, and other questions at the intersection of religion and politics. Ryden is author of The U.S. Supreme Court and the Electoral Process and Is the Good Book Good Enough? Evangelical Perspectives on Public Policy. His expertise in the realm of electoral politics garnered him significant media attention this presidential cycle, with his insights appearing on CNN and in The Christian Science Monitor, U.S. News and World Report, and The New York Times.

Jeffrey J. Polet is professor of political science at Hope College, where he teaches political theory. He has published in on topics such as electoral law, faith-based initiatives, and marriage policy in the realm of public policy and on important themes and thinkers in contemporary political thought.



"Recommended for public and academic libraries."ARBA

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