Book review: 'Endowed by Our Creator' offers insights to Founding Fathers

By Rosemarie Howard

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Nov. 17 2012 2:55 p.m. MST

"ENDOWED BY OUR CREATOR: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America," by Michael I. Meyerson, Yale University Press, $32.50, 368 pages (nf)

The Constitutional role and influence of government on religion and religion on government are the focus of Michael I. Meyerson’s book, “Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America.”

Beginning with the pre-Revolutionary War period Meyerson takes the reader on a non-linear journey through the development of religious freedom in the United States that includes present-day insights.

In well-written, easy-to-understand prose, he describes the religious and political differences that influenced the creation and implementation of the concept of religious freedom contained in the Constitution.

Rather than reinterpreting contemporary notions of what the founding fathers intended as they struggled to define and implement religious freedom, the author quotes directly from original sources and describes the context in which the ideas were developed.

He makes it clear that separating church from government, but not God from government was the aim of the founders of our nation, and argues that America’s religious history should be included in our schools.

In his concluding statements, the author writes, “We must understand that one may care deeply about religious liberty, like George Washington, and still believe that public acknowledgment of religion does not threaten the rights of others … by learning the lessons of those who helped create the American understanding of freedom of religion, we can begin to move closer to a more perfect union.”

The book would make an excellent text for classroom or group study of the Constitution and religious freedom. It should be on the reading list of anyone who wants to learn more about the role of religion in a free nation.

Almost a third of the book, 87 pages, contains extensive endnotes, a bibliography and an index, with an eBook version available online.

Meyerson, who has written extensively on the Constitution, lives in Ellicott City, Md. He is the Wilson H. Elkins Professor of Law and Piper & Marbury Faculty Fellow at the University of Baltimore School of Law, where he specializes in constitutional law and American legal history.

Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at dramaticdimensions.com.

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