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For many decades Americans have openly disagreed about the role that religion should play in public debate Liberals typically maintain that religion should not be an important element in public discussion about our communal goals Conservatives insist that religion should play an unencumbered role in public life This article reviews two works Steven H Shiffrin The Religious Left and ChurchState Relations and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan Prison Religion FaithBased Reform and the Constitution both of which challenge this liberalconservative dichotomy They suggest that we have reached this liberalconservative impasse partly because of the forces animating modernity Latestage modernists generally have insisted that the only path to knowledge lay in experience the empirical study of external reality By questioning modernity and its implications the authors encourage readers to reconsider some basic notions of religious freedom and the separation of church and state While each author approaches these topics in unique ways they agree on a crucial point as a practical matter religion cannot be banned from the public sphere

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