When Richard John Neuhaus’s influential book The Naked Public Square
was published twenty-five years ago, the title metaphor quickly came to symbolize — and embolden — growing discontent with the extreme secularization of American public life. Thanks to Neuhaus, during the last quarter century the image of the "naked public square" has been used as an effective rhetorical device to counter the trite and misleading "wall of separation" metaphor popularized by many secularists. Still, the debate about religion and politics continues to rage in both the practical and the theoretical arenas.
The contributors to this book reexamine the issues raised by The Naked Public Square in light of contemporary trends, debates, and jurisprudence. Gerard Bradley and Mary Ann Glendon debate whether the constitutional law has become more or less "strict separationist" since the publication of The Naked Public Square. Joseph Weiler discusses the implications of European elites' refusal to include a reference to Christianity in the proposed European Constitution. A number of contributors — Michael Pakaluk, John Finnis, Rogers Smith, and William Galston — point out the theoretical inadequacy of John Rawls’s concept of "public reason," which has been used to exclude religious arguments from public discourse, but they offer quite different theoretical frameworks for understanding the relation of politics and religion. Hadley Arkes and Richard John Neuhaus reflect on The Naked Public Square and subsequent developments in America. The result is an invaluable combination of legal analysis and theoretical reflection on religion and politics, an issue that is destined to remain central to American political and social affairs.