Foreordained Failure

Foreordained Failure : The Quest for a Constitutional Principle of Religious Freedom

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Ever since the Supreme Court began enforcing the First Amendment's religion clauses in the 1940s, courts and scholars have tried to distil the meaning of those clauses into a usable principle of religious freedom. In this highly original work, Smith criticizes the main positions in the debate and explains their misconceptions. He argues that efforts to find a principle of religious freedom in the "original meaning" are fruitless because the clauses were purely jurisdictional in nature: they were meant to place authority over questions of religion with the states, and nothing more. Contending that the perennial quest to distill religious freedom into a "principle," is futile, Smith advocates a fundamental reassessment of the premises upon which courts have proceeded in this more

Product details

  • Paperback | 186 pages
  • 153.9 x 229.1 x 13mm | 290.3g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0195132483
  • 9780195132489

Review quote

Smith's historical argument is powerfully presented. * Constitutional Commentary * [Smith's] argument is honest and unpretentious, and for that reason it invites belief. * Michigan Law Review * This is a provocative book. Its thesis is clearly stated, well supported, and carefully qualified...Professor Steven Smith has produced and innovative, well researched analysis of the challenges of interpretation posed by the religion clauses of the First Amendment. This study is an important contribution to the extensive scholarly commentary on freedom of religion and is highly recommended. * The Law and Politics Book Review * Important...fresh, provocative, and will certainly stimulate debate. * The Review of Politics * The book is admirably clear in design and statement, and its argument is extensively and forcefully developed against numerous contrary claims and possible objections....Smith makes an important contribution to the discussion. * The Journal of Religion * An excellent work, replete with original and important insights. What makes Foreordained Failure so powerful and important is that it runs dead against the grain of conventional liberal thought about the institution of judicial review generlly and the correct interpretations of the religion clauses particularly. * Ira C. Lupu, The George Washington University * ...perhaps the most important book ever written on the religion clauses of the Constitution. If Smith is correct, the widely acknowledged failure of religion clause jurisprudence can be seen as the inevitable consequence of a fundamental misunderstanding of the clauses' scope and purposes. No court or academic commentator dealing with the clauses can ignore Smith's arguments. * Larry A. Alexander, University of San Diego School of Law * ...thoroughly treats the constitutional issue of the basic principles underlying the right of freedom of religion; it is politically significant at this time because of the growing power of the religious right in our society....It is a provocative essay, and its points deserve wide discussion. It is clearly written and very well documented. * Choice * a refreshingly clear and vigourous account * Julian Rivers, Ecclesiastical Law Journal *show more

About Steven D. Smith

Steven D. Smith is Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame. He has taught and published extensively on legal subjects, including constitutional law and more

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