Not so very long ago, the idea of religious freedom enjoyed all the self-evident virtue of a Norman Rockwell painting. Sure, Americans disagreed about what it meant in practice, leaving their Supreme Court to hash out the details. Still, however Americans differed in their religious beliefs, they espoused religious freedom and insisted that it cannot be government's job to promote any one religious sect over others or coerce anyone's conscience in religious matters. “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation,” thundered Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson in 1943, “it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”1 For a time, this consensus seemed poised to embrace the entire world. When in November 1949 Eleanor Roosevelt proudly held up for public view a poster-size copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including its article on “freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” one might have been forgiven for thinking that all the peoples of the earth were ready to follow her matronly instruction.2
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