Religion and the Constitution


Religion and the Constitution



Balancing respect for religious conviction and the values of liberal democracy is a daunting challenge for judges and lawmakers, particularly when religious groups seek exemption from laws that govern others. Should members of religious sects be able to use peyote in worship? Should pacifists be forced to take part in military service when there is a draft, and should this depend on whether they are religious? How can the law address the refusal of parents to provide medical care to their children – or the refusal of doctors to perform abortions? Religion and the Constitution presents a new framework for addressing these and other controversial questions that involve competing demands of fairness, liberty, and constitutional validity.

In the first of two major volumes on the intersection of constitutional and religious issues in the United States, Kent Greenawalt focuses on one of the Constitution’s main clauses concerning religion: the Free Exercise Clause. Beginning with a brief account of the clause’s origin and a short history of the Supreme Court’s leading decisions about freedom of religion, he devotes a chapter to each of the main controversies encountered by judges and lawmakers. Sensitive to each case’s context in judging whether special treatment of religious claims is justified, Greenawalt argues that the state’s treatment of religion cannot be reduced to a single formula.

In the second volume, Kent Greenawalt focuses on the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which forbids government from favoring one religion over another, or religion over secularism. The author begins with a history of the clause, its underlying principles, and the Supreme Court’s main decisions on establishment, and proceeds to consider specific controversies. Taking a contextual approach, Greenawalt argues that the state’s treatment of religion cannot be reduced to a single formula.

Calling throughout for religion to be taken more seriously as a force for meaning in people’s lives, Religion and the Constitution aims to accommodate the maximum expression of religious conviction that is consistent with a commitment to fairness and the public welfare.


9780691125824 (v. 1), 9780691125831 (v. 2)

Publication Date



Princeton University Press


Princeton, NJ


Volume 1: Free Exercise and Fairness

"The book takes within its gaze an astonishingly rich set of cases, problems, contexts, and variations, reaching well beyond the narrow domain of judicially enforceable constitutional principle to questions of public policy and private behavior."
Larry Sager, University of Texas

"Kent Greenawalt is a national treasure. He combines an encyclopedic knowledge of the law with a subtle understanding of the human dimensions of each of the wide range of problems that arise with respect to free exercise rights. This will immediately become the best book in print on the problems presented by religious accommodation."
Andrew Koppelman, Northwestern University

Volume 2: Establishment and Fairness

"This is the most important work on the Establishment Clause in the literature and it will remain so for a long time to come. Virtually every chapter breaks new ground."
Steven H. Shiffrin, Cornell University

"This is a superb overview of a broad range of First Amendment issues from a powerful analytic mind with a profound knowledge of the field."
Andrew Koppelman, Northwestern University


Volume 1: Free Exercise and Fairness
Volume 2: Establishment and Fairness


Arts and Humanities | Constitutional Law | First Amendment | Law | Law and Philosophy | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion

Religion and the Constitution

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