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Religion and the Constitution: Volume I: Free Exercise and Fairness [Paperback]

Kent Greenawalt

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Book Description

July 26 2009 Religion and the Constitution

Balancing respect for religious conviction and the values of liberal democracy is a daunting challenge for judges and lawmakers, particularly when religious groups seek exemption from laws that govern others. Should members of religious sects be able to use peyote in worship? Should pacifists be forced to take part in military service when there is a draft, and should this depend on whether they are religious? How can the law address the refusal of parents to provide medical care to their children--or the refusal of doctors to perform abortions? Religion and the Constitution presents a new framework for addressing these and other controversial questions that involve competing demands of fairness, liberty, and constitutional validity.

In the first of two major volumes on the intersection of constitutional and religious issues in the United States, Kent Greenawalt focuses on one of the Constitution's main clauses concerning religion: the Free Exercise Clause. Beginning with a brief account of the clause's origin and a short history of the Supreme Court's leading decisions about freedom of religion, he devotes a chapter to each of the main controversies encountered by judges and lawmakers. Sensitive to each case's context in judging whether special treatment of religious claims is justified, Greenawalt argues that the state's treatment of religion cannot be reduced to a single formula.

Calling throughout for religion to be taken more seriously as a force for meaning in people's lives, Religion and the Constitution aims to accommodate the maximum expression of religious conviction that is consistent with a commitment to fairness and the public welfare.


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Review

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2006

"Kent Greenawalt is a masterful guide to the range of issues and varied sources concerning free exercise, and teachers and scholars of constitution law will find his book an invaluable resource on free exercise questions."--L. Joseph Hebert, Law and Politics Book Review

"Kent Greenawalt's latest masterwork . . . is written with elegance, power, and lucidity--and filled with the kind of wit, wisdom, and Wissenschaft that [his] readers have come to expect."--John Witte, Jr., Constitutional Commentary

"[A] comprehensive resource and guide to a wide range of free exercise issues and an incisive reminder of the challenges in interdisciplinary discourse."--Annika Thiem, Law, Culture and the Humanities

"Kent Greenawalt argues for taking religion more seriously as a source of meaning in people's lives and accommodating religious freedom to the maximum amount that is consistent with a commitment to fairness."--Law & Social Inquiry

From the Inside Flap

"The book takes within its gaze an astonishingly rich set of cases, problems, contexts, and variations, reaching well beyond the narrow domain of judicially enforceable constitutional principle to questions of public policy and private behavior."--Larry Sager, University of Texas

"Kent Greenawalt is a national treasure. He combines an encyclopedic knowledge of the law with a subtle understanding of the human dimensions of each of the wide range of problems that arise with respect to free exercise rights. This will immediately become the best book in print on the problems presented by religious accommodation."--Andrew Koppelman, Northwestern University

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Highly informative April 8 2011
By A. Nye - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Kent Greenawalt is undoubtedly a brilliant Professor at Columbia Law School and he's written a thought-provoking book on the free exercise of religion that unfortunately, no one will read. I shouldn't say that no one will read it - I'm sure that law school students (especially those in Professor Greenawalt's classes), judges and the fairly limited number of lawyers who routinely practice in this area will read Religion and the Constitution.

One of the reasons this book will not be widely read is that the subject matter, while interesting, is just so difficult to wrap your head around. The first clues that I had that this would be a tough read was when I opened the book and noticed that the Introduction by the author contained 11 fairly detailed footnotes. Oh-oh.

Admittedly, it's been a long time since I was in law school. But reading this paragraph from the introduction made my head throb as memories of those classes in Constitutional Law came back to me:

Many situations in which multiple values are at stake involve difficult trade-offs that are not resolvable by any higher metric that gives much practical assistance. This truth has implications for the coherence we can expect in normative evaluation. Two people sharing the same theoretical approach may disagree about how to resolve a particular problem, and each may have difficulty explaining the exact weighting of relevant considerations that leads her to prefer the outcome she does. Someone who conceives such nuances of difference in normative appraisal will be modest about the opportunities for our practical reason to produce demonstrably correct conclusions for troublesome issues. Recognizing that the majority opinions of American courts often suffer the further liability of being produced by various compromises, such a person will hesitate to condemn judicial work as incoherent or irrational, a charge frequently leveled against the Supreme Court's church-state jurisprudence.

For those for whom this book is directed, it's thoroughly researched and wonderfully informative. Greenawalt begins by sketching out the history of the Free Exercise Clause in the Constitution, its subsequent development, and a brief history of leading Supreme Court decisions. Along the way, he succinctly explains the difference between "originalists" and "nonoriginalists" judges who must determine the meaning constitutional texts. He then allocates a chapter to each of the main religious controversies often confronting judges in today's courts.

Soon, you too will understand how the law answers many vexing religious questions, such as:

Should the government excuse religious pacifists, all pacifists, or no pacifists from a military draft? Given a general requirement that children stay in school up to the age of sixteen, should officials allow a religious group to withdraw their children at an earlier age, so they may undertake vocational training for their communal life? Should a state that prohibits use of peyote allow members of a church to ingest that drug as the center of their worship services? Should a law that forbids gender discrimination in employment leave untouched religious groups that permit only men to be clergy?

These and many other controversial issues involving religion claims and standard legal duties are examined in this scholarly text. If you practice in this area of the law, this book is invaluable.

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