If liberalism is premised on inclusion, pluralism and religious neutrality, can the separation of church and state be said to have a unitary and rational foundation? If we accept that there are self-evident principles of morality or politics, then doesn't any belief in a rational society become a sort of faith? And how can liberalism mediate impartiality between various faiths - as it aims to do - if liberalism itself is one of the competing faiths? This text answers these questions with critical analysis of four 20th-century liberal and postliberal thinkers: John Dewey, John Rawls, Richard Rorty and Stanley Fish. The author's readings of these theorists and their approaches to religion lead him to surprising conclusions, arguing against the perception of liberalism as simple moral or religious neutrality, calling into question the prevailing justifications for separation of church and state, and challenging the way we think about the very basis of constitutional government.
J. Judd Owen is an assistant professor of political science at Emory University.