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The Impossibility of Religious Freedom
Winnifred Fallers Sullivan

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"This is a remarkably fine work that discusses the way religion is perceived and dealt with in the United States. The subject is of great moment not only in America but also in the world at large, and Sullivan has treated it with considerable analytical skill and ethnographic detail. The result is a powerful and convincing argument."--Talal Asad, City University of New York Graduate Center

"Provocative. Engaging. Valuable. Sullivan has created a kind of analytical triptych that captures some of the most important features of religions and law in the United States. It is a finely crafted portrait of an incredibly suggestive trial, a meditation on the political/legal status of folk religions in the United States, and a theoretical intervention into contemporary studies of religion jurisprudence."--Jason Bivins, North Carolina State University.

"The Impossibility of Religious Freedom is an astonishing book. Winnifred Sullivan once again demonstrates her flair for extracting a big lesson from a seemingly small event--in this book, a controversy over the allowable style of grave markers in a public cemetery in Boca Raton, Florida. To the town, the issue was the ease of mowing the cemetery and making it look tidy; for the survivors of the dead buried in the cemetery the issue was the appropriate expression of religious faith. This case looks like a simple church-state controversy, but Sullivan (an expert witness in the case) deftly explains why the federal court and the First Amendment really cannot cope with the issues involved. Separating church and state requires defining what religion is. The devil here is in the definition. Sullivan offers an important challenge to the easy assumptions to the current propensity of federal courts to accommodate religion. What is religion anyway? Read this fascinating story to see how challenging that question is."--Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University

"Sullivan's exploration of unofficial religion is elegant, moving, uncompromising, and profoundly important. By examining religion literally from the ground up, it challenges all of the familiar pieties about religious liberty in America."--Philip Hamburger, author of Separation of Church and State

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File created: 4/17/2014

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