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The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life, Vol. 1:
The Odyssey of the Religion Clauses
James Hitchcock

Hardcover | 2004 | $62.50 | £52.95 | ISBN: 9780691116969
232 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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School vouchers. The Pledge of Allegiance. The ban on government grants for theology students. The abundance of church and state issues brought before the Supreme Court in recent years underscores an incontrovertible truth in the American legal system: the relationship between the state and religion in this country is still fluid and changing.

This, the first of two volumes by historian and legal scholar James Hitchcock, provides the first comprehensive exploration of the Supreme Court's approach to religion, offering a close look at every case, including some that scholars have ignored.

Hitchcock traces the history of the way the Court has rendered important decisions involving religious liberty. Prior to World War II it issued relatively few decisions interpreting the Religious Clauses of the Constitution. Nonetheless, it addressed some very important ideas, including the 1819 Dartmouth College case, which protected private religious education from state control, and the Mormon polygamy cases, which established the principle that religious liberty was restricted by the perceived good of society.

It was not until the 1940s that a revolutionary change occurred in the way the Supreme Court viewed religion. During that era, the Court steadily expanded the scope of religious liberty to include many things that were probably not intended by the framers of the Constitution, and it narrowed the permissible scope of religion in public life, barring most kinds of public aid to religious schools and forbidding almost all forms of religious expression in the public schools. This book, along with its companion volume, From "Higher Law" to "Sectarian Scruples," offers a fresh analysis of the Court's most important decisions in constitutional doctrine. Sweeping in range, it paints a detailed picture of the changing relationship between religion and the state in American history.


"The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life provides for the general reader a useful road map through the history and case law. The first of the two volumes tells the history rather comprehensively, with a minimum of interpretive overlay. The second tries to understand the story. Hitchcock's work is especially valuable for his extensive coverage of the Court's religion jurisprudence before the deluge--that is, before the 1940s, when the Court deliberately made itself a tribunal of the nation's religious disputes."--Russell Hittinger, First Things


"This book and its companion volume provide a concise, but complete account of all the relevant cases since 1789 with sophisticated scholarly analysis. It is by far the best introduction I have seen to all that the Supreme Court has ever said about church and state. Hitchcock presents difficult and controversial material in a fair-minded manner, and the treatment of cases is remarkably free of polemic. A valuable and unique contribution to the field."--Gerard V. Bradley, University of Notre Dame

"Hitchcock covers a tremendous amount of American legal history and does so with remarkable clarity and brevity. His arguments are nuanced and always thought-provoking. The book compels a rethinking of prevailing legal doctrines and thus has the potential to have a significant impact on the continuing debate on the constitutional relationships between religion and American life."--Daniel Dreisbach, American University

Table of Contents:

Introduction to Volume 1 1
The Kingdom of This World 3
Belief and Action 18
The Phantom Wall 32
Clouds of Witnesses 43
Expansion 60
Contraction 90
Religious Education and Public Support 122
Notes 163
Bibliography 193
Index of Justices 205
Index of Cases 207
General Index 213

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