As candidates and campaigns reach out to people of faith, and religious organizations join the fray over hot topics like the recognition of same-sex marriage in civil law and federal requirements regarding contraception coverage, Americans are once again asking questions about the rules governing religious expression in public life.
To provide Americans with some answers to these questions, a group of national Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Christian leaders from the evangelical, mainline and Catholic traditions joined with civil liberties leaders to draft “Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law.” The Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University School of Divinity coordinated the project.
“As the campaign cycle moves toward November elections, the statement provides helpful guidance for tax-exempt organizations about the IRS rules that apply to their political activities,” said Melissa Rogers, director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs. “It also helps voters understand how the First Amendment applies to the political activities of religious individuals and institutions,” Rogers explained. “The role of religion in public life has long been a source of controversy and litigation. We brought together a diverse group of experts on law and religion to clarify what current law has to say about these matters.”
Originally released at the Brookings Institution in 2010, the document is being re-released as the presidential election approaches. It remains the most comprehensive joint statement of current law and is the first document of its kind to address such a wide spectrum of issues related to the role of religion in public life, Rogers said. She added: “As the nation debates the meaning of religious liberty, and what the law in this area does or should protect and prohibit, this guide can serve as a tool for civil and informed discussions.”
The full text of this document is available for preview and digital download -- including iPad and PDF versions -- free of charge from the School of Divinity website. In addition, bound and full-color print copies are available from MagCloud.com.
“Our purpose in providing this statement is to increase understanding of current law regarding religious expression in American public life,” Rogers said. “While the drafters of this document may disagree about how the legal line should be drawn between church and state, we have been able to come together and agree in many cases on what the law is today.”
The 32-page document follows a question-and-answer format for easy reference and covers election-relevant topics.