How Free Can Religion Be?

How Free Can Religion Be?

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Randall P. Bezanson's How Free Can Religion Be? explores the Supreme Court's varied history of interpreting the religious guarantees outlined in the First Amendment. The book discusses eight provocative Supreme Court decisions to track the evolution of Free Exercise and Establishment Clause doctrine, focusing on the court's shift from strict separation of church and state to a position where the government accommodates and even fosters religion.Beginning with samples from the latter half of the nineteenth century, the detailed case studies present new problems and revisit some old ones as well: the purported belief of polygamy in the Mormon Church; state support for religious schools; the teaching of evolution and creationism in public schools; Amish claims for exemption from compulsory education laws; comparable claims for Native American religion in relation to drug laws; and rights of free speech and equal access by religious groups in colleges and public schools.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 296 pages
  • 142.24 x 218.44 x 22.86mm | 453.59g
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252076990
  • 9780252076992

Review quote

"How Free Can Religion Be? is a happy combination of cutting-edge thought and careful exposition of fundamental constitutional questions. Its case studies are presented as stories--not primarily stories of fact but stories of ideas. Collectively, they illustrate the evolution of Supreme Court jurisprudence with respect to the relationship between religion and government. Scholars will find ample food for thought in Bezanson's analysis of the thinking of litigators and jurists and in his assessment of the social consequences of the direction(s) the Court has taken. A wider audience will appreciate the book's timely and broadly appealing subject, its clear language and explanations, and its strong narrative interest."--Joan DelFattore, author of The Fourth R: Conflicts over Religion in America's Public Schools "A book in the crowded field of church-state relations that takes a well-mined subject and presents its familiar material in a refreshingly thought-provoking way."--Journal of Church and State "In this dense but rewarding study, Bezanson examines how the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom. Since the late 1980s, the court has held that the government can support, and even encourage, religious practice as long as it does not endorse one religion over another. Bezanson looks in detail at eight cases, beginning with Reynolds v. United States (1878), which upheld a law banning polygamy, then practiced by the Mormons. He also analyzes cases in which the Amish questioned compulsory education laws, fundamentalists protested school curricula that included evolution, and Native Americans sought protection for the use of peyote in religious ceremonies. The inclusion of lengthy quotations from the court records, and dialogues between lawyers and justices, add immediacy and authenticity. Unfortunately, because Bezanson's arguments are subtle and nuanced, he is unlikely to reach a broad general audience. "(July) - Publishers Weekly, March 22, 2006
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About Randall P. Bezanson

Randall P. Bezanson is the David H. Vernon Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Iowa. He is the author of many books, including How Free Can the Press Be?
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