cover image The First Liberty: Rel

The First Liberty: Rel

William Lee Miller. Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95 (373pp) ISBN 978-0-394-53476-3

Scheduled for publication on the bicentennial of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, precursor of the First Amendment, this exploration of the role of government with regard to religious pluralism examines the constitutional roots of a uniquely American concept, and the history of a perennially heated debate. Miller, communications professor at the University of Virginia and author of The Protestant and Politics, Piety Along the Potomac, etc., emphasizes the pivotal importance of Roger Williams and James Madison in shaping the role of public virtue as a secular equivalent of a state religion. The author successfully conveys the personalities of these early legislators. Their passionate debates and tenacity, in Miller's view, established this first right as well as a climate of contention that remains fierce in our own day. January 16