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How Free Can Religion Be?

Randall P. Bezanson

Publication Year: 2006

In tracking the evolution of the First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment Clause doctrine through Key Supreme Court decisions on religious freedom, legal scholar Randall P. Bezanson focuses 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 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.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

When an author writes a book, she or he often has ideas and objectives that are important to the book but hardly obvious to the reader. At least that is the case with this book, and so I take this brief occasion at the very beginning to touch on a few points...

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pp. 1-6

Thomas Jefferson believed that the freedom of religion was the most important of all the rights conferred in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly called the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment begins with the religion guarantees. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting...

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Stage I. The Old Time Religion: Separation of Church and State

We begin at the beginning. Not the beginning of religion or the religion guarantees in America, but the beginning of the Supreme Court’s interpretations of...

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1. God's Law or Caesar's? The Free Exercise of Religion

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pp. 9-26

The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .” The Constitution seems to point to a relationship between the secular state and religion, one in which the state can’t have...

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2. The Wall of Separation: "No law respecting an establishment of religion . . ."

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pp. 27-48

The religion guarantees, the Supreme Court often says, are complementary. Yet the clauses are also distinct. The “exercise of religion” is a different thing than an “establishment of religion.” Many people believe that the two guarantees are as often in tension...

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Stage II: The Time of Testing

The bitter pill of Reynolds’s and Everson’s rules of strict separation—even with the somewhat qualified “neutrality” exception crafted by the Everson majority—soon became increasingly difficult for the Court to...

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3. The Amish Conundrum: The Conflict between Free Exercise and Non-establishment

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pp. 51-79

Can the recognition of an exemption from a law in the name of freedom to exercise religion amount to a preference for a religion that violates the prohibition against government establishing religion? Is this especially likely when the exemption is restricted...

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4. Darwin versus Genesis

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pp. 80-102

By the 1920s, Charles Darwin’s “theory” of evolution was broadly accepted in biology as an explanation of the development of species by random variation and natural selection based on scientific evidence. It had never been accepted by the many Christians who believed in the literal truth of the Bible and, specifically, the Genesis story...

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5. School Prayer

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pp. 103-148

The Supreme Court’s decision in the school prayer case was felt widely and deeply in American life. It hit home in public schools in every corner of the country, and it hit hard: no more school-sponsored prayers read at the beginning of the day. Immediately following the decision and for months thereafter, the Court received a torrent...

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Stage III. The New Awakening

Over the course of roughly forty years, from the Everson case in 1947 until the late 1980s, the stable and coherent strict separationist view of the religion guarantees broke down completely, leaving space for the emergence...

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6. Peyote: God versus Caesar, Revisited

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pp. 151-186

Alfred Smith lost his job because he used peyote in a religious ceremony. Smith was a sixty-three-year-old alcohol and drug treatment counselor for the Douglas County Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment (ADAPT) in Oregon...

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7. Non-establishment as Nondiscrimination

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pp. 187-233

In the fall of 1988, Ronald Rosenberger was an entering student at the University of Virginia. He was also a deeply committed, born-again Christian. In his early days at the university he saw what he judged to be a pervasive attitude of “political correctness,” to which he increasingly took offense. Particularly grating were...

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8. Equality as a Sword: The Ghost of Everson

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pp. 234-272

Joshua Davey was a talented and dedicated young man when he entered college in the fall of 1999. He was bound for the ministry. But he would not get there. Joshua grew up in Spokane, Washington, raised in a family of modest means who valued education and made religion an important part of Joshua’s upbringing. Joshua was a serious...

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Religion in America

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pp. 273-280

“The life of the law,” said Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “is experience, not logic.” With the Constitution of the United States, it is the Supreme Court that gives life to the law. Accordingly, this book is not just an inquiry into the meaning of religious liberty. It is also a study of the Supreme Court of the United States.Vague and...

Suggested Reading

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pp. 281-284


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pp. 284-287

E-ISBN-13: 9780252090530
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252031120

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2006