Religion and the Constitution, Volume 1: Free Exercise and Fairness

Princeton University Press
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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 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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About the author

Kent Greenawalt is University Professor at Columbia University, teaching in the law school, and a former Deputy Solicitor General of the United States. His books include Does God Belong in Public Schools? and Fighting Words (both Princeton), as well as Conflicts of Law and Morality and Religious Convictions and Political Choice.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 10, 2009
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Pages
480
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ISBN
9781400827527
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Constitutional
Law / Jurisprudence
Political Science / General
Religion / Religion, Politics & State
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Kent Greenawalt
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.

Kent Greenawalt
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.

Kent Greenawalt
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.

Kent Greenawalt
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.
Kent Greenawalt
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 books 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 books 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.
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