It is that time of the year for those of us engaged in study; deadlines are imminent, exams loom, stress abounds and tunnel vision sets in.
For us here are MandM this directly affects 3 members of our family, Matt, Sheridan and myself, all engaged in tertiary study and to a lesser degree, Christian in his first year of NCEA.
Regular readers will recall that I undertook a somewhat pivotal supervised research paper this semester that has the potential to make or break me. I have refined my research topic to attacking the notion that neutrality, within the context of pluralistic liberal democracies must always = secularity.
While most who write in this area look at the role of the citizen, I am examining the jurisprudence. My thesis is that the doctrine of religious restraint is present in the dominant tests for religious freedom (Coercion, Endorsement and Lemon) and that this unjustly places a burden on a religious citizen, regardless of his or her role within society, that is not placed on a secular citizen. This asymmetry undercuts the notions of freedom, equality and state neutrality central to standard conceptions of liberal democracy.
Anyway, feel free to offer your thought on my topic, the deadline is less than two weeks away 23 Oct at 4pm 12pm Fri 30 Oct (extension) and Matt, starting Monday, has to do a 5 day stint in Tauranga in the midst of it leaving me, injured and living with chronic pain remember, to run things at home and blogwise whilst completing my 10,000 word paper that could open doors or slam them forever, so if your clever comment piques my interest enough they may make it to a footnote in my research which I do intend to seek publication, within New Zealand, for. I am this stage up to 5656 words.
To pique your interest I will quote from Stephen Carter, Professor of Law at Yale University,
One good way to end a conversation – or start an argument – is to tell a group of well educated professionals that you hold a political position (preferably a controversial one such as being against abortion or pornography) because it is required by your understanding of God’s will. In the unlikely event that anyone hangs around to talk with you about it, chances are that you will be challenged on the ground that you are intent on imposing your religious beliefs on other people. And in contemporary political and legal culture, nothing is worse.
That awful phrase – “imposing religious belief” – conjures up images of the religious right, the reverend Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, the Reverand Pat Robertson’s Presidential campaign, the 1992 Repubulican Convention, and the rest comes out in a jumble of post-enlightenment angst: we live in a secular culture, devoted to sweet reason. We separate church and state. We believe in tolerance. We aren’t superstitious. Taking religion seriously is something only those wild-eyed zealots do: Operation Rescue, blocking the entrances to abortion clinics… you know who we mean, those Christian fundamentalists… the evangelicals… the folks who want classroom prayer in public schools, but think that God doesn’t hear the prayers of Jews… you know, those television preachers… those snake charming faith healers… and John Cardinal O’Connor… and the “scientific” creationists… Southern Baptists, for goodness sake! The labels often seem to run together this way with no particular logic to them, and, to be sure, without any context either. (Trying to explain, for example, that Christian fundamentalists and Christian evangelicals are not the same usually just confuses matters more) But there is a message in this miasma, and the message is that people who take their religioun seriously, who rely on their understanding of God for motive force in their public and political personalities – well, they are scary people. 
Also if anyone wants to submit a guest post for the Sunday Study, Matt, who is preaching tomorrow at Riverhead Presbyterian Church, on top of everything else, would greatly appreciate it.
The point of this post is to explain our somewhat distracted attention from blogging.
 Stephen Carter The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialise Religious Devotion (Basic Books, New York, 1993) 23-24.