Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2006

Publication Citation

13 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 445 (2006)


This article draws upon leading works in the sociology of religion to assess what I shall call "the secularization claim" regarding the United States. It endeavors, in particular to clarify the possible meanings of "secularization,"and then to use these conceptual refinements to examine what sort of evidence exists that the United States has been secularized. Though it is not possible to falsify every version of the secularization claim, there is little evidence to support it, especially in its most prominent and politically relevant variations. The article then goes on to offer a preliminary analysis of to what extent, if any, are constitutional factors responsible for sustaining a public culture in the United States that is, by comparison to most other nations, durably religious. The article identifies four constitutional or quasi-constitutional factors that sociologists and political scientists have suggested might be partly responsible for the vigor of American religion: disestablishment, the fragmentation of political authority, ethnic diversity and immigration, and provocative judicial decisions. The article concludes by recommending that scholars who are interested in the conditions that sustain religious activity and other forms of civic association in the United States should pay more attention to the constitutional fragmentation of political authority.

La Conception Américaine de la Laïcité, Symposium. University of Paris II (Panthéon-Assas) – Paris, France, January 28, 2005