EVEN APART FROM the fabricated battles of the culture wars, seeking the proper balance between church and state in U.S. public life has always been a contentious matter. The Constitution prohibits governmental establishment of any religion and protects the free exercise of all religious belief. But, as Da’Shawn Mosley explains in this issue, when it comes to people of faith in public service, not all religions are created equal.
Since the Puritans’ “city upon a hill” and before, Christian imagery and beliefs have been cornerstones of American self-understanding, and the so-called “separation” of church and state has been arguably more honored in the breach, as evidenced by the nearly unbroken line of Christian presidents. Almost all Americans—including, it is hoped, most Christians—would strongly oppose a religious litmus test for public office. But the real challenge, as Mosley points out, seems to be whether those beliefs hold true when Muslims join citizens of other faiths and no faith in seeking the keys to the city on the hill.