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Document Type

Article

Abstract

American neutrality is not about the government making sure religion is not visible or even treated benevolently. The American concept of neutrality just means that the government should not treat religion as special, for better or for worse, simply because it is religion. For example, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that laws touching religion must have a valid secular purpose, and not serve primarily to advance or inhibit religion. But that does not mean that religion should not be respected. The key to the American conception of religious neutrality lies in the understanding that religion is valuable—despite what strict secularists may say—and yet its “value is best honored by prohibiting the state from trying to answer religious questions”—despite what traditionalists believe. So long as that balance is respected, so long as religion is valuable for other reasons than the fact that it may contain an ultimate truth, religion can be treated just as well as any other beneficial aspect of society. When that balance is respected without the State trying to answer religious questions or opine on religious truths, when all religions are under one umbrella, then minority religions have nothing to fear. And when the State treats religion writ broad as a certain type of societal good, with the understanding that all “religions” (including, for example, nontraditional but legally recognized religions like secular humanism) are equal before the eyes of the law, the expression of religion through the display of a religious symbol becomes a much more neutral statement.

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