Cannonball, North Dakota
This introductory chapter argues for the continued relevance of religious freedom for Native claims. First, Native claims to religious freedom have often failed in court. Indeed, many Native peoples are understandably reluctant to speak of their traditions in the language of religion, given that their orientation to place does not conform to the conceptual shape of religion conventionally understood. Native peoples also have good reason to be reluctant because of frequent associations of the sacred with the secret. But the problem of Native American religious freedom goes far deeper. As a growing body of critical religious studies literature has shown, the reason that some religions do not fully count for religious freedom legal protection is because the particular characteristics of Protestant Christianity is naturalized and universalized at the expense of traditions characterized more by community obligations, law, and ritualized practice. A fourth criticism of engaging religious freedom is the legacy of the plain fact that religion has long been used against Native American peoples.
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