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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 students in public schools be allowed to organize devotional Bible readings and prayers on school property? Does reciting "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance establish a preferred religion? What does the Constitution have to say about displays of religious symbols and messages on public property? 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 this second of two major volumes on the intersection of constitutional and religious issues in the United States, Kent Greenawalt focuses on the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which forbids government from favoring one religion over another, or religion over secularism. The author begins with a history of the clause, its underlying principles, and the Supreme Court's main decisions on establishment, and proceeds to consider specific controversies. Taking a contextual approach, Greenawalt argues that the state's treatment of religion cannot be reduced to a single formula.


Calling throughout for acknowledgment of the way religion gives meaning to 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.

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.

Controversial Supreme Court decisions have barred organized school prayer, but neither the Court nor public policy exclude religion from schools altogether. In this book, one of America's leading constitutional scholars asks what role religion ought to play in public schools. Kent Greenawalt explores many of the most divisive issues in educational debate, including teaching about the origins of life, sex education, and when--or whether--students can opt out of school activities for religious reasons.

Using these and other case studies, Greenawalt considers how to balance the country's constitutional commitment to personal freedoms and to the separation of church and state with the vital role that religion has always played in American society. Do we risk distorting students' understanding of America's past and present by ignoring religion in public-school curricula? When does teaching about religion cross the line into the promotion of religion?


Tracing the historical development of religion within public schools and considering every major Supreme Court case, Greenawalt concludes that the bans on school prayer and the teaching of creationism are justified, and that the court should more closely examine such activities as the singing of religious songs and student papers on religious topics. He also argues that students ought to be taught more about religion--both its contributions and shortcomings--especially in courses in history. To do otherwise, he writes, is to present a seriously distorted picture of society and indirectly to be other than neutral in presenting secularism and religion.


Written with exemplary clarity and even-handedness, this is a major book about some of the most pressing and contentious issues in educational policy and constitutional law today.

Legal norms may forbid, require, or authorize a particular form of behavior. The law of contracts, for example, informs people how to enter into agreements that will bind both sides, and from this we establish legal requirements on how they should behave. In public law, legal standards provide authority to legislators and executive officials to set standards for citizens, and also give judges the authority to decide disputes by applying and interpreting governing standards. In Realms of Legal Interpretation, Kent Greenawalt focuses on how courts decide what is legally forbidden or authorized, and how context shapes their decisions. The problem, he argues, is that we do not, and never have, agreed exist on all the details of the standards United States judges should employ--like everyone else, judges have different ideas of what constitutes good common sense. Moreover, circumstance regularly throws up hurdles. For instance, what should a judge do if the text of a statute does not fit the intention of the legislators, or if someone has obviously and mistakenly omitted a necessary item from a will or contract? Different judges react in different ways. Acknowledging that courts will never agree upon a uniform approach to applying norms and interpreting the law, Greenawalt's aim is to provide a capacious, user-friendly model for approaching hard cases sensibly in both public and private law. Just as importantly, the book serves as a pithy guide to the major forms of legal interpretation for nonlawyers. Ultimately, Realms of Legal Interpretation represents a pithy distillation of Greenawalt's many works on the theories that anchor legal interpretation in America's legal system.
In Legal Interpretation, Kent Greenawalt focuses on the complex and multi-faceted topic of textual interpretation of the law. All law needs to be interpreted, and there are many ways to do it. But what sorts of questions must one seek to answer in interpreting law and what approach should one take in each case? Whose interpretations should be prioritized? Why would one be drawn to one strategy over another? And should legal interpretation seek to satisfy specific aims or general objectives? In order to provide the answers to these questions, Greenawalt explores the ways in which interpretive strategies from other disciplines--the philosophy of language, literary and musical interpretation, religious interpretation, and general interpretive theory--can augment and enrich methods of legal interpretation. Over the course of the book, he suggests how such forms of interpretation are analogous to legal interpretation--and points to those cases in which interpretation must rest on the distinctive aspects of legal theory, such as is the case with private documents. Furthermore, Greenawalts meditation suggests that interpretive strategies from other disciplines can shed light on the essential nature of legal interpretation and provide roads by which to account for dissonance between various methods of interpretation. Legal Interpretation is a thought-provoking reflection on the ways that insights from a range of intellectual traditions can deepen our understanding of law, particularly with regard to constitutional law.
This third volume about legal interpretation focuses on the interpretation of a constitution, most specifically that of the United States of America. In what may be unique, it combines a generalized account of various claims and possibilities with an examination of major domains of American constitutional law. This demonstrates convincingly that the book's major themes not only can be supported by individual examples, but are undeniably in accord with the continuing practice of the United States Supreme Court over time, and cannot be dismissed as misguided. The book's central thesis is that strategies of constitutional interpretation cannot be simple, that judges must take account of multiple factors not systematically reducible to any clear ordering. For any constitution that lasts over centuries and is hard to amend, original understanding cannot be completely determinative. To discern what that is, both how informed readers grasped a provision and what were the enactors' aims matter. Indeed, distinguishing these is usually extremely difficult, and often neither is really discernible. As time passes what modern citizens understand becomes important, diminishing the significance of original understanding. Simple versions of textualist originalism neither reflect what has taken place nor is really supportable. The focus on specific provisions shows, among other things, the obstacles to discerning original understanding, and why the original sense of proper interpretation should itself carry importance. For applying the Bill of Rights to states, conceptions conceived when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted should take priority over those in 1791. But practically, for courts, to interpret provisions differently for the federal and state governments would be highly unwise. The scope of various provisions, such as those regarding free speech and cruel and unusual punishment, have expanded hugely since both 1791 and 1865. And questions such as how much deference judges should accord the political branches depend greatly on what provisions and issues are involved. Even with respect to single provisions, such as the Free Speech Clause, interpretive approaches have sensibly varied, greatly depending on the more particular subjects involved. How much deference judges should accord political actors also depends critically on the kind of issue involved.
Legal norms may forbid, require, or authorize a particular form of behavior. The law of contracts, for example, informs people how to enter into agreements that will bind both sides, and from this we establish legal requirements on how they should behave. In public law, legal standards provide authority to legislators and executive officials to set standards for citizens, and also give judges the authority to decide disputes by applying and interpreting governing standards. In Realms of Legal Interpretation, Kent Greenawalt focuses on how courts decide what is legally forbidden or authorized, and how context shapes their decisions. The problem, he argues, is that we do not, and never have, agreed exist on all the details of the standards United States judges should employ--like everyone else, judges have different ideas of what constitutes good common sense. Moreover, circumstance regularly throws up hurdles. For instance, what should a judge do if the text of a statute does not fit the intention of the legislators, or if someone has obviously and mistakenly omitted a necessary item from a will or contract? Different judges react in different ways. Acknowledging that courts will never agree upon a uniform approach to applying norms and interpreting the law, Greenawalt's aim is to provide a capacious, user-friendly model for approaching hard cases sensibly in both public and private law. Just as importantly, the book serves as a pithy guide to the major forms of legal interpretation for nonlawyers. Ultimately, Realms of Legal Interpretation represents a pithy distillation of Greenawalt's many works on the theories that anchor legal interpretation in America's legal system.
This third volume about legal interpretation focuses on the interpretation of a constitution, most specifically that of the United States of America. In what may be unique, it combines a generalized account of various claims and possibilities with an examination of major domains of American constitutional law. This demonstrates convincingly that the book's major themes not only can be supported by individual examples, but are undeniably in accord with the continuing practice of the United States Supreme Court over time, and cannot be dismissed as misguided. The book's central thesis is that strategies of constitutional interpretation cannot be simple, that judges must take account of multiple factors not systematically reducible to any clear ordering. For any constitution that lasts over centuries and is hard to amend, original understanding cannot be completely determinative. To discern what that is, both how informed readers grasped a provision and what were the enactors' aims matter. Indeed, distinguishing these is usually extremely difficult, and often neither is really discernible. As time passes what modern citizens understand becomes important, diminishing the significance of original understanding. Simple versions of textualist originalism neither reflect what has taken place nor is really supportable. The focus on specific provisions shows, among other things, the obstacles to discerning original understanding, and why the original sense of proper interpretation should itself carry importance. For applying the Bill of Rights to states, conceptions conceived when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted should take priority over those in 1791. But practically, for courts, to interpret provisions differently for the federal and state governments would be highly unwise. The scope of various provisions, such as those regarding free speech and cruel and unusual punishment, have expanded hugely since both 1791 and 1865. And questions such as how much deference judges should accord the political branches depend greatly on what provisions and issues are involved. Even with respect to single provisions, such as the Free Speech Clause, interpretive approaches have sensibly varied, greatly depending on the more particular subjects involved. How much deference judges should accord political actors also depends critically on the kind of issue involved.
In Legal Interpretation, Kent Greenawalt focuses on the complex and multi-faceted topic of textual interpretation of the law. All law needs to be interpreted, and there are many ways to do it. But what sorts of questions must one seek to answer in interpreting law and what approach should one take in each case? Whose interpretations should be prioritized? Why would one be drawn to one strategy over another? And should legal interpretation seek to satisfy specific aims or general objectives? In order to provide the answers to these questions, Greenawalt explores the ways in which interpretive strategies from other disciplines--the philosophy of language, literary and musical interpretation, religious interpretation, and general interpretive theory--can augment and enrich methods of legal interpretation. Over the course of the book, he suggests how such forms of interpretation are analogous to legal interpretation--and points to those cases in which interpretation must rest on the distinctive aspects of legal theory, such as is the case with private documents. Furthermore, Greenawalt's meditation suggests that interpretive strategies from other disciplines can shed light on the essential nature of legal interpretation and provide roads by which to account for dissonance between various methods of interpretation. Legal Interpretation is a thought-provoking reflection on the ways that insights from a range of intellectual traditions can deepen our understanding of law, particularly with regard to constitutional law.
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