Groundbreaking book addresses pressing questions about religion’s role in public life
“Before we let the radical left tear down all the statues of our American founders, we need to read
Forlines’s insightful book. . . . “Thank God for this book, and for these United States of America!” That’s what Former Arkansas Governor and talk show host Mike Huckabee said about Secularism and the American Republic, the most recent book released by Welch College Press, the publishing imprint of Welch College in Gallatin, Tennessee.
The book was written by the late F. Leroy Forlines, long-time scholar of theology and culture and professor at Welch College. Forlines poured himself into the posthumous volume in the last years of his life. In the book, which can be purchased from welch.edu/welchpress, he argues against the secularist idea of strict church-state separation, opting instead for the reasonable accommodation of church and state.
“We stand desperately in need of a fresh recognition” that America’s founders did not support “secularism as a master ideology superseding all religious assertions and commitments,” writes Wilfred McClay, University of Oklahoma history professor, in his endorsement of Forlines’s book. “We are extremely fortunate to have the benefit of the late F. Leroy Forlines’s careful and nuanced discussion of the varied meanings of ‘secularism’ as applied to the early Republic, and by extension, to today’s America.”
The book is edited by Matthew Steven Bracey, vice provost for academic administration at Welch, who teaches courses in law and culture there. “The myth of seventeenth-century American secularism became federally enshrined in the American legal system through the decisions of Everson v. Board of Education and McCollum v. Board of Education,” Bracey said. “A key piece of evidence the justices in these cases used was a letter penned by Jefferson in which he referred to a wall between church and state. Forlines doesn’t dispute the letter but contends that the secularist interpretation of Jefferson’s words is mistaken and that the founders supported the accommodation of church and state. Professor Forlines justifies this interpretation based on Jefferson’s writings and example, as well as the history of the movement of secularism and legal history. I’m so glad we can finally make Professor Forlines’s groundbreaking research available to the public.”
Several scholars have lauded the book. For example, Mark Coppenger, retired professor of Christian philosophy and ethics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, remarked, “This Forlines volume . . . is a treasure. I wish I’d had it on hand when I was teaching my church-state relations courses.” People interested in the book may purchase it at www.welch.edu/welchpress.
Daniel Webster is director of enrollment and marketing at Welch College. www.welch.edu