There was a time in America’s history that, when talk turned to religion, it was widely assumed you meant Protestant forms of Christianity. Eventually, and with some struggle, this was broadened to include Catholics and Jews, creating a tri-faith “Judeo-Christian” conception of faith in the United States. Groups outside this understanding were, at the time, either too small, or considered too strange and foreign, to be seriously considered.

Thanks to a number of different factors, immigration, social upheaval, and shifting attitudes, different religious groups and movements took hold and found fertile soil here. Now the Judeo-Christian understanding is increasingly threadbare as Pagans, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, African diasporic faiths, syncretic movements, renewed indigenous traditions, and those who claim no formal faith at all, demand equal treatment and consideration under the law. This has created a unique friction as those who cling to the  old conceptions of faith in America encounter a pluralism that threatens their conception of moral and societal order.

A perfect example of this friction is displayed in the case of Louisiana’s new, expansive, school voucher program that would funnel government money to private schools, including religiously-run schools. There are a number of things that are being challenged in the new law, and it remains to be seen if it will ultimately stand, but some early supporters are having second thoughts now that it’s apparent that “religious” schools don’t automatically mean “Christian” schools.

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