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.
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.