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A once abandoned treatise on religious liberty
is posted on line in five historic volumes

The NCC's expert Dean M. Kelley
      died before editing was complete

New York, April 27, 2009 -- When the Rev. Dean M. Kelley died on May 11, 1997, the loss was devastating for proponents of religious liberty.

Kelley, who served as Executive for Religious Liberty of the National Council of Churches from 1960 to 1990, was a nationally recognized expert in the field who had defended the rights of such diverse groups as the Unification  Church, Taos Pueblo Indians, Church of Scientology, Old Order Amish, Christian Scientists, Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims and mainline Protestants.

"When Dean Kelley died, an enormous amount of knowledge and experience died with him," said Wesley M. "Pat" Pattillo, the NCC's Senior Program Director for Justice and Advocacy and Communication. "Now, a remarkable  publishing venture will make much of that knowledge accessible again for all religious groups working their way through First Amendment issues and church-state controversies."

Among the intellectual treasures lost when Kelley died was a five-volume treatment on religious liberty in the U.S. that Kelley had been working on for 20 years when he fell ill with cancer. He completed the writing before he died, but the publisher abandoned the project when the task of updating developments in state law for the book became overwhelming.

Now, in a collaborative venture with the NCC's Committee on Religious Liberty, the First Amendment Center has made Kelley's  five-volume The Law of Church and State in America available on line.  

“The opportunity for online publication rescued a masterpiece from oblivion,” write the members of the manuscript committee, who brought Kelley’s work to its present form. Lenore Hervey, Kelley’s only child and the copyright holder, agreed to provide the work freely for online use. The First Amendment Center agreed to make the work available on its site. The book’s chapters are posted as PDFs.

"Kelley's work at the Council was extraordinary and historic," said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary. "Thanks to the First  Amendment Center, this once-lost work is now available to a new generation of people who value their freedom to practice their religion as they are led by their faith and intellect."

“As the long-time director of civil and religious liberty at the National Council of Churches of Christ, the Rev. Dean Kelley was one of the most effective advocates for religious freedom of his era,” said Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center, a project of the Washington-based Freedom Forum, which also operates the Newseum, a major exposition center on Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation's capital. “This monumental work on the law of church and state reflects both his deep knowledge of the issues and his extraordinary ability to provide a lively, informed account of case law central to understanding the relationship between religion and government in America.”

Kelley’s book covers a range of topics. In the author’s own words:

“This work is organized under five broad themes: (1) the autonomy interests of religious bodies; (2) the outreach activities of religious bodies; (3) the inculcation of the faith by religious bodies; (4) the practice of the faith by the faithful in the ‘world’ (issues of ‘conscience’); and (5) state efforts to shelter, sponsor or protect religion — not always justifiable — and attempts to define what entities or activities are entitled to that treatment.

“The work of the courts within these areas is analyzed and evaluated according to my understanding of what the Founders’ radical ‘institutional invention’ — of the disengagement of religion from governmental authority — requires and how it has worked out in application (or sometimes misapplication). Extensive excerpts from important court opinions — federal and state — allow the readers to judge for themselves the persuasiveness of judicial reasoning.”

The NCC Committee on Religious Liberty assigned the year-long publishing task to a manuscript committee, chaired by Sharon Worthing Vaino, a member of the editorial council of the Journal of Church and State. Members included Hervey and Haynes as well as Richard Foltin, American Jewish Committee; Rev. N. J. (Skip) L’Heureux Jr., Queens Federation of Churches; Wesley (Pat) Pattillo, National Council of Churches; and Rev. Charles M. Whelan, Fordham University School of Law.

More on Kelley.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) ,

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