Sincerely Held: American Secularism and Its Believers

Univ. of Chicago. (Class 200: New Studies in Religion). Apr. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9780226817958. pap. $30. LAW
McCrary (religious studies, Arizona State Univ.) places the thorny concepts of American secularism, sincerely held religious beliefs, and religious freedom under a microscope. Setting the tone with stories that explore the fine line between new religious movements and fraud, McCrary works through a series of examples from U.S. legal history, examining court interpretations about what counts as religious practice and belief. The results are head-spinning and often bizarre, and the stakes of the cases are high, as they set the bar for what rights Americans are and aren’t guaranteed under the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause, which prohibits government interference with religious belief, and within some limits, religious practice, something’s that has been referenced in disputes about wedding services for same-sex couples and religious exemptions for the COVID vaccine. The best chapters offer in-depth analysis of major court cases, especially when draftees sought religious exemptions from military service. Though the book’s dense writing sometimes gets bogged down in details and loses the narrative hook, the information is valuable and thought-provoking.
VERDICT A good choice for religious, political, and legal scholars seeking a thorough confrontation of what historically has and hasn’t counted as a sincerely held religious belief.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing