This article interrogates the notion of liberal state neutrality when it comes to adjudicating religious freedom claims. Drawing on work in political theory, legal theory, and religious studies, I argue that Christianity is a central and invisible feature of liberalism. I then examine how Christian liberalism has shaped American religious freedom jurisprudence, analyzing contradictory Supreme Court decisions involving free exercise and establishment claims. On the one hand, the language of secular purpose has safeguarded several Christian expressions from Establishment Clause scrutiny. On the other hand, since the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993), some Christian conservative legal advocates have repositioned Christianity as a persecuted religion requiring free exercise exemptions from antidiscrimination law. That the Court has recently obliged this more narrow understanding of religious freedom demonstrates the resilience of the Christian liberal state. While the cases are drawn from the American context, I suggest that the language of Christian liberalism is a useful conceptual tool for analyzing religious freedom claims in a variety of liberal democratic contexts.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Christian liberalism, First Amendment, liberal democracy, political theory, religious freedom, Supreme Court
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1177/1743872119864674
Journal Law, Culture and the Humanities
Citation
Dick, H. (2019). The Invisible Center: Christian Liberalism in American Religious Freedom Jurisprudence. Law, Culture and the Humanities. doi:10.1177/1743872119864674