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Religion & freedom
Separation of church and state does not eliminate religion's impact

November 9, 2000
The Iranian

From Religion, Law, and Freedom: A Global Perspective edited by Joel Thierstein and Yahya R. Kamalipour (2000, Praeger Publishers). Dr. Yahya R. Kamalipour is professor of mass communications and head of the Department of Communication and Creative Arts, Purdue University Calumet, Hammond, Indiana. His previous books include Images of the U.S. Around the World: A Multicultural Perspective (1999) and Cultural Diversity and the U.S. Media (with T. Carilli, 1998).

In 1706, Jonathan Swift wrote: "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another." It is in the spirit of love and understanding that Dr. Joel Thierstein and Dr. Yahya R. Kamalipour have published a book that explores three intertwined issues, religion, law, and freedom from a global perspective.

Protecting domestic moral values and beliefs, often built on religious foundations, affects a country's legal limitations on the flow of information and communication. Conversely, the structure of a nation's communication system affects the nation's legal structure as well as its religious ideology. The relationship among law, religion, and the mass media manifest themselves in many different areas, including culture, politics, and international and intercultural communication.

In general, the values and strength of a country's dominant religion often determine the type of government or legal structure a country has. Even in nations where there is a separation of church and state, the dominant religion of the society impacts on the system of governance. For example, the United States, which espouses the separation of church and state, based its Constitution and republican system of government on the organizational structure of the Presbyterian Church. There were more Presbyterians in the Continental Congress than men of any other religion.

Furthermore, the evangelical nature of the dominant religion of a particular country affects the exportation of cultural values, beliefs, or icons of that culture to other nations through the global media. Many countries have begun to recognize this influence and have attempted to construct legal barriers to restrict the importation of foreign media. Religious mores are major factors in nation-states' sensitivity toward the importation of foreign media, such as music, videos, TV programs, movies, and the Internet.

A country's religious dogma, legal structure, and media systems are seldom static. Historically, as these three societal elements have changed, so have the dynamics of their relationships. Even in today's global information age, religion, law, and the media systems of nations are still very much intertwined. The various global perspectives presented in this book illustrate the relationship among religion, law, and communication freedom.

For more information about the book and its contents go here.

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