Religion, Law, USA

How has the US Supreme Court handled religious court cases?

Religion, law, USA

ed. by Joshua Dubler and Isaac Weiner New York University, 2019
312p index, 9781479893362 $99.00, 9781479891399 $35.00, 9781479812417

Religion, Law, USA book cover

Since the late 1940s key court cases from Everson v. U.S.,to the school prayer cases of the 1960s, to the Smith “peyote” decision of 1990, to recent cases involving religious exemptions from the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court has been busy deciding cases involving religion, law, and society. The result: a mess. The “manyness” (as contributor Jason Bivins refers to it) of religion in the US ill fits courtroom cases, where definitions are constructed in ways that reflect Protestant understandings of what constitutes “religion.” Inspired by scholar Winnifred Fallers Sullivan’s conception of “the impossibility of religious freedom” (as articulated in a volume by the same title, CH, Jan’06, 43-3072), the present book explores a wide variety of cases involving religion and law. The irony is that religious studies scholars (and the contributors to this volume are among those at the top of this scholarly field) have explored questions such as how boundaries are drawn between what is religion and what is not, but the courts have turned time and again to particular definitions that scholars have long since historicized and, in so doing, rejected. This artfully constructed, richly complex collection does an excellent job of examining the persistent disconnect between scholarly understanding of religion and court cases involving religion.

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals.
Reviewer: P. Harvey, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Subject: Humanities – Religion
Choice Issue: Jan 2020