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Gods in AmericaReligious Pluralism in the United States$
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Charles L. Cohen and Ronald L. Numbers

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199931903

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199931903.001.0001

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“Courting Anarchy”?: Religious Pluralism and the Law

“Courting Anarchy”?: Religious Pluralism and the Law

(p.347) Chapter 15“Courting Anarchy”?: Religious Pluralism and the Law
Gods in America

Shawn Francis Peters

Oxford University Press

Legal protections for faith-based practices are part of American religious pluralism's bedrock, but, at the same time, the state can and will impose limits. The degree to which courts have been willing to allow regulations on religion has fluctuated in response to social, political and cultural forces. During the 1960s and 1970s, courts extended free-exercise protections even to “marginal” religions, but the trend reversed in subsequent decades because many Americans perceived new religious movements—many of foreign origin and theologically distant from mainstream Christianity—as dangerous organizations that merely masqueraded as religions in order to escape state scrutiny. These concerns have escalated efforts to regulate Sikhs, Hindus, and, most notably, Muslims. Courts have often have provided a powerful forum for “religious outsiders” to assert their rights and gain status. It remains to be seen if a similar process of “legitimization through litigation” is now taking place for non-Christian outsiders.

Keywords:   First Amendment, Supreme Court, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hare Krishnas, Unification Church, Worldwide Church of God, Sikhism

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