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Trumping Religion

The New Christian Right, the Free Speech Clause, and the Courts

Written by Steven P. Brown

Publication Year: 2002

The first scholarly treatment of the strategies employed by the New Christian Right in litigating cases regarding religion.

Trumping Religion provides a detailed analysis of the five major public-interest law firms that have litigated religion cases in the federal courts between 1980 and 2000. Allied with several highly vocal, evangelical ministries, such as those of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robinson, these legal organizations argue that religious expression is a form of protected speech and thereby gain a greater latitude of interpretation in the courts. The long-term agenda of the New Christian Right as illuminated by this study is to shape church-state jurisprudence in a way that permits free course for the Christian gospel.

Steven P. Brown presents his research and conclusions from a balanced viewpoint. In filling a distinct void in the literature, this book will be of considerable interest to political scientists, legal scholars, law schools and seminaries, and anyone concerned with the intersection of religion and judicial politics.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Contents

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pp. v-

Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

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1. The Bible and the Bench: An Introduction to New Christian Right Activism in the Courts

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pp. 1-12

“1996 will be a pivotal year for your country, your community and your family. Now more than ever Christians need to act out their faith in the public arena.”1 With that call to action, Coral Ridge Ministries summoned concerned Christians to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to take part in its annual Reclaiming America for Christ conference. The convention promised participants...

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2. A Perfect State of Society: The Emergence of Conservative Christian Public Interest Law

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pp. 13-26

Although the emergence of New Christian Right public interest law is a rather new phenomenon, the influence of religion on American politics is not. Of his visit to America in 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville would later note that “the religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States. The longer I stayed in the country, the...

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3. One in Purpose: The Firms That Litigate the New Christian Right Agenda

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pp. 27-45

Within the growing body of organizations litigating the New Christian Right agenda in the courts are such groups as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, and the Family Research Council. Focusing primarily on the development of grassroots support for public policies that reflect their views on abortion, gay...

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4. “Incremental Pragmatism”: Legal Strategies of the New Christian Right

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pp. 46-61

When questioned about their use of the law to protect religious liberty, New Christian Right lawyers often make reference to a biblical model of legal resistance by citing the example of the Apostle Paul invoking his rights as a Roman citizen when his preaching caused him to be arrested for sedition.1 New Christian Right attorneys who litigate religious liberty claims...

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5. Scaling the Establishment Wall: Free Speech and the Supreme Court’s Religion Cases

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pp. 62-85

In its landmark 1947 decision Everson v. Board of Education of the Township of Ewing,1 the Supreme Court not only incorporated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, making it applicable against state government action, it also famously invoked Thomas Jefferson’s phrase regarding a “wall of separation between Church and State.”2 Despite the simplicity of...

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6. Pathbreakers and Gatekeepers: The Lower Federal Court Response to the New Christian Right

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pp. 86-119

Despite their increased level of activity in Supreme Court religion cases, New Christian Right public interest law firms appreciate the odds of reaching the High Court. Though it has never been easy to get one’s case before the justices, the Court’s spiraling docket (now close to eight thousand cases a year) coupled with a steady decline in the number of cases granted plenary...

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7. Money, Media, and (Not So) Gentle Persuasion: New Christian Right Lawyers Outside the Courtroom

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pp. 120-135

The New Christian Right’s embrace of the courts, its adoption of wellestablished litigation strategies, and its increasing presence in religious liberty cases in the federal courts reflects a deliberate attempt to be actively and anxiously engaged in the often slow process of legal evolution. Although “incremental pragmatism” (the strategy of diligently pursuing...

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8. Legal Right or Gospel Tool? The Past and Future of the New Christian Right’s Free Speech Strategy in the Courts

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pp. 136-145

During the last two decades New Christian Right lawyers have been active in religious liberty litigation before the federal courts, using the free speech clause to make the judiciary take notice of an approach to religion that it might not have otherwise. Although their Supreme Court efforts are typifed by third-party participation as amicus curiae and a decidedly mixed record where traditional religion clause arguments were made, New...

Appendix: Table of Cases

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pp. 147-152

Notes

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pp. 153-170

Bibliography

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pp. 171-180

Index

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pp. 181-187


E-ISBN-13: 9780817381738
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817351403

Publication Year: 2002