Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment
Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment, 4th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016) (with Joel A. Nichols) (Spanish translation by Nicolás Zambrana Tévar and Rafael Domingo, 2018; Ecuadorian edition, 2020; Peruvian edition, 2020; French translation forthcoming)
This accessible introduction tells the American story of religious liberty from its colonial beginnings to the latest Supreme Court cases. The authors provide extensive analysis of the formation of the First Amendment religion clauses and the plausible original intent or understanding of the founders. They describe the enduring principles of American religious freedom--liberty of conscience, free exercise of religion, religious equality, religious pluralism, separation of church and state, and no establishment of religion--as those principles were developed by the founders and applied by the Supreme Court. Successive chapters analyze the two hundred plus Supreme Court cases on religious freedom--on the free exercise of religion, the roles of government and religion in education, the place of religion in public life, and the interaction of religious organizations and the state. A final chapter shows how favorably American religious freedom compares with international human rights norms and European Court of Human Rights case law.
Lucid, comprehensive, multidisciplinary, and balanced, this volume is an ideal classroom text and armchair paperback. Detailed appendices offer drafts of each of the religion clauses debated in 1788 and 1789, a table of all state constitutional laws on religious freedom, and a summary of every Supreme Court case on religious liberty from 1815 to 2015. Throughout the volume, the authors address frankly and fully the hot button issues of our day: religious freedom versus sexual liberty, freedom of conscience and its limitations, religious group rights and the worries about abuse, faith-based legal systems and their place in liberal democracies, and the fresh rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Christianity in America and abroad.
For this new edition, the authors have updated each chapter in light of new scholarship and new Supreme Court case law (through the 2015 term) and have added an appendix mapping some of the cutting edge issues of religious liberty and church-state relations.
Table of Contents
List of Tables and Figures
Appendix 1: Drafts of Federal Religion Clauses (1787-1789)
Appendix 2: State Constitutional Provisions on Religion (as of 1947)
Appendix 3: United States Supreme Court Decisions Relating to Religious Liberty
For the Fourth Edition:
"In the inevitably contentious field of church-state constitutional issues in America, it is rare to find a volume that is as accessible, thoughtful, and measured as Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment by John Witte, Jr. and Joel A. Nichols. Their remarkable ability to create order in the midst of the chaos of the ever-changing constitutional law of religious liberty makes this an ideal volume for classroom use, and this new fourth edition updates the church-state story through the US Supreme Court’s 2015 decisions."
-- Journal of Church and State
“The authors provide clear description of complicated case law and public policy for students and citizens. They reveal patterns and principles on a subject often caricatured by wild generalizations and widespread confusion. Academics and experts across a range of fields and professions will appreciate their fine analysis and comprehensive scholarship. The authors refute a weak postmodernist critique of religious freedom and offer a provocative perspective on the history of liberty of conscience.”
-- Patrick Horn, Reading Religion
For the Third Edition:
“This new edition of John Witte’s indispensable volume, done in collaboration with Joel Nichols, lives up to the standards of the previous volumes. Anyone interested in religious liberty and freedom, besieged in so many parts of the world, will find their narrative of the struggle for religious rights and liberties in American history illuminating. It is impossible to recommend this book too highly.”
-- Jean Bethke Elshtain, The University of Chicago
“This book is an extremely valuable, easily readable history of understandings of free exercise and nonestablishment. In a field in which that history is often portrayed to support one modern outlook or another, the account the authors provide is lucid, full, balanced, and highly persuasive.”
-- Kent Greenawalt, Columbia Law School
“This study of America’s ongoing effort to secure religious freedom through constitutional law is invaluable, and illuminating, for students and scholars alike. The key principles that originally informed and inspired that effort are identified and clarified; important ideas like ‘church-state separation’ and ‘liberty of conscience’ are unpacked; the twists and turns of the Supreme Court’s First Amendment decisions and doctrines are helpfully navigated; and the American model of religious liberty is put in revealing conversation with others around the world. This edition’s new and timely treatments of the rights and role of religious organizations, and of present-day attempts to downplay the distinctiveness of religion, make an already indispensable resource even better than it was.”
-- Richard W. Garnett, Notre Dame Law School
For Previous Editions:
“A close examination of the context in which the United States committed itself to religious freedom, a valuable presentation of the Supreme Court decisions that have advanced or retarded the great project of religious freedom, and a striking measurement of present American law by international human rights law. A rich resource to be mined, a fair and friendly guide offering directions to the perplexed of good will, and a reasoned and robust call to redress the present balance.”
-- John T. Noonan, Jr., United States Court of Appeals
“By this book, John Witte has established himself as a leading scholar in the history of American constitutional law of religious liberty. Its excellent topical analysis and its thorough coverage and documentation makes it a perfect textbook, and by virtue of its profound insights it is essential reading for scholars in the field. Indeed, its lively and engaging style makes it accessible to all educated people.”
-- Harold J. Berman, Emory University
“John Witte has provided an excellent interdisciplinary review of the American experiment in religious liberty. He ably integrates the law, the history, and theology from colonial times to the latest issues before the Supreme Court.”
-- Douglas Laycock, University of Texas, Austin
“Witte does a masterful job in compressing a complex and controversial story into a lucid and engaging narrative. This book illuminates, excites reflection, and invites a reappraisal of the essential rights and liberties of religion in America.”
-- Journal of Church and State
“How fortunate is the reader to be provided with an ‘introduction’ of this character: comprehensive, systematic, penetrating, ironic, and throughout magnificently clear. Because the subject is complex, the reader will welcome the author’s steady determination to see the reader is neither lost nor confused. The ample notes are there not to impress, but to guide; it would be difficult to exaggerate their pedagogical utility, or that of the appendices. The bibliography tells us what we already know: Witte has read it all.”
-- Edwin S. Gaustad, University of California, Riverside