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The Bible in the Park

Federal District Courts, Religious Speech, and the Public Forum

By John Blakeman

Publication Year: 2005

John Blakeman’s, The Bible in the Park is an in-depth study of federal district court policymaking and litigation trends in First Amendment cases concerning religious speech and expression in public places. District courts play an important policymaking role in the federal judicial system, and Blakeman’s book contributes to our understanding of that role, especially in the context of religious liberty and free speech disputes. As the courts of first instance in the federal judicial system, district courts not only are charged with interpreting and applying First Amendment law at the trial level, but to a large degree also affect how the law is mobilized and developed through litigation. Using a comprehensive database of district court cases concerning religious expression in public places, Blakeman analyzes the legal and political pressures affecting district court outcomes, and also details the litigation trends and pressures that affect how the law concerning religious expression evolves and changes over time.

Published by: The University of Akron Press


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List of Figures

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pp. vi-vii

List of Tables

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p. viii

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pp. ix-xix

The past two decades have seen a significant amount of excellent scholarship on the links between religion and politics. Studies of religion and politics span diverse social science approaches and methods, and indeed are often interdisciplinary in nature, with roots not only in political science, but also economics, sociology, and the law. We now have...

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pp. xxi-xxii

I have incurred many intellectual debts throughout this project, so I thank the following for their help and support along the way. Thanks especially to my wife Kathryn and all the extended family: Margaret and Angus, my mother Janet, Rachel, Jeff (and Ryan), and David and Judith. Thanks also to Henry J. Abraham and David M. O’Brien at the University...

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1. Courts, Religious Speech, and the Naked Public Square

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pp. 1-33

LIKE MANY UPPER MIDWESTERN TOWNS in the United States, Marshfield, Wisconsin, is tidy, neatly planned out, and safe. Seventy percent of the city’s residents reported their ancestry in the 2000 census as German, Polish, or Norwegian, and Marshfield is still possessed of the cultural influences of the immigrants who sought to remake central Wisconsin after their homes and villages in Europe. From the food, to surnames, to Polish...

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2. Hamlet without the Prince: Religious Speech and the Supreme Court

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pp. 34-69

WHEN THE KU KLUX KLAN sought an official permit to place an unattended Christian cross in the plaza surrounding the Ohio statehouse, it met stiff resistance. The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board determines who can access the plaza for expressive purposes, and it denied the KKK’s request. For the board, granting access for the Klan’s religious message—in the form of the unattended cross—would be construed as...

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3. Standing in the Temple and Teaching the People: Litigants, Courts, and the Public Square

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pp. 70-127

PUBLIC FORUMS ATTRACT SPEAKERS WHO wish to publicly communicate a specific message. Whether that message is political,social, artistic, or religious, there is some underlying reason why the speaker thinks it belongs in a public space. Understanding district court policy-making in religious speech and public forum cases depends, then, to a large extent on the messages and motivations of...

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4. “The Land Becomes the Message Bearer”: Locations of the Public Square

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pp. 128-169

LITIGATION DYNAMICS SHOW THE KINDS of messages and types of expression that speakers seek to place in the public square. As chapter 3 illustrates, the motivations of religious speakers range from Krishna solicitations for money and the distribution of Christian literature by evangelical public school students to the vocal proselytism by preachers such as James Gilles who sought...

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5. Sacred Messages, Public Places, and the Content of the Public Square

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pp. 170-219

THE GIDEON BIBLE (KING JAMES VERSION) is a ubiquitous feature of hotel room accoutrements throughout the United States, and perhaps the world. Its presence reflects the Gideon Bible Society’s long-standing tradition of distributing Bibles to the public. Robert Alley notes that hotel rooms are only one target of the Gideons: “for some thirty-five years the Gideons...

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6. Conclusion: District Courts, Religious Speech, and the Public Square

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pp. 220-247

THE GOOD NEWS V. MILFORD Central School case discussed in chapter 5 reflects the Supreme Court’s continuing focus on the free speech and public forum rights of religious speakers. Yet, the Court’s division over how and whether the Establishment Clause limits religious speech indicates a lasting disagreement over the constitutional limits on private religious expression in public forums. For this study of district courts...


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pp. 248-278

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 279-285


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pp. 287-297

E-ISBN-13: 9781935603320
E-ISBN-10: 1935603329
Print-ISBN-13: 9781931968133
Print-ISBN-10: 1931968136

Page Count: 300
Illustrations: 20 graphs
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 607607874
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Bible in the Park

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Freedom of religion -- United States.
  • Public spaces -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Freedom of speech -- United States.
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