Please Don’t Wish Me a Merry Christmas

Feldman, a professor of law, builds a persuasive case against the “dominant story of the separation of church and state.” The first claim of that story, that “the separation of church and state stands as a constitutional principle that promotes democracy and equally protects the religious liberty of all,” obscures the extent to which the separation has privileged Christianity by protecting the de facto establishment of a religious culture more concerned with defending Protestantism than with protecting religious liberty. The second claim, that “the principle emerges as a unique American contribution to political theory,” obscures the extent to which separation of church and state is rooted in 2,000 years of Christian history–and the extent to which it is entangled with institutionalized anti-Semitism. At a time when debate rages around issues associated with the establishment clause of the First Amendment–including school prayer and public displays of Christian religious symbols–and at a time of resurgent anti-Semitism, Feldman’s carefully reasoned and meticulously documented case is particularly welcome.