Published on: Thursday, February 14, 2013
When Prof. Joel Nichols helped author a case book and law school text on the First Amendment religion clauses and religious freedom in America, he knew that the target audience would likely be comprised of law students and undergraduates studying politics and religion. But recently, the book Nichols authored with Prof. John Witte Jr. (of Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion) has been made available to a whole new audience – law school students in China.
The third edition of Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment was published by Westview Press in 2011. The book was most recently translated in Chinese and is available for purchase on Amazon China and several online law school bookstores that cater to the world’s most populous nation.
Nichols, who, in addition to serving as associate dean for academic affairs at UST Law is also a senior fellow at Emory University’s Center for Law and the Study of Religion, said it was quite the surprise when he learned last month that the book was published in Chinese.
“I could imagine this would be useful in China almost for the basic principles of religious liberties that are discussed in the text,” Nichols said. “The early part of this book talks about ‘Why do we have the religion clauses and the idea of religious liberty that we do? What was it supposed to accomplish? How do we promote pluralism? How do we promote religious equality? How do we promote liberty of conscience or separation of church and state and what might all these things mean?’”
Nichols also discovered the translator for the Chinese language version of the text offered a reflection on the book in terms of how it will be received in the context of Chinese scholars’ understanding of American concept of religious freedom, including this excerpt: “For scholars of Chinese legal circles, this book is also a study of American constitutional government and religious culture capable ladder. In fact, in the process of translation of this book, I also took the greatest effort… in this translation I want to maximize the academic achievements of the original author presented to our readers.”
Nichols expressed his desire that the translated text would make a positive contribution to scholarly efforts in China to better understand the foundations of America’s ongoing experiment with religious freedom.
“I would hope this book and its ideas would help people in China have a more robust, a more full idea of what religious freedom means,” he said. “This idea of religious freedom is not just for America, but for every person; and the way it is played out in America may not exactly happen how it needs to play out in China. But I hope the book can serve as a window into the ideas of religious freedom as they have played out in American, so they can help it grow in China.