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Religious Liberty in America

Political Safeguards

Louis Fisher (author)

ISBN: 9780700612017

Publication Date: Sep 2002

Format: Hardback

Also available as: Paperback  

It is often assumed that the judiciary - especially the Supreme Court - provides the best protection of religious freedom in the USA. Examining American history, Louis Fisher argues that Congress has more often been AT the forefront of establishing and protecting minority rights.

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It is often assumed that the judiciary - especially the Supreme Court - provides the best protection of religious freedom in the USA. Louis Fisher, however, argues that only on occasion does the Court lead the charge for minority rights. More likely it is seen pulling up the rear. By contrast, Congress frequently acts to protect religious groups by exempting them from general laws on taxation, social security, military service, labour, and countless other statutes. Indeed, legislative action on behalf of religious freedom is an American success story, but one that Fisher argues has been poorly understood by many. Taking in the full span of American history, Fisher demonstrates that over the course of two centuries of American government Congress has often been AT the forefront of establishing and protecting rights that have been neglected, denied or unrecognized by the Court - and that statutory provisions far outstrip, in both number and importance, the court cases that have expanded religious rights. In this text, Fisher presents a series of case studies that explain how Supreme Court rulings on religious liberty have been challenged and countermanded by public pressures, legislation, and independent state action. He tells how religious groups interested in securing the rights of conscientious objectors received satisfaction by taking their cases to Congress, not the courts; how public uproar over a 1940 Supreme Court ruling sustaining compulsory flag-salutes resulted in a court reversal; and how Congress intervened in a 1986 ruling upholding a military prohibition of skullcaps for Jews. By describing other controversies such as school prayer, Indian religious freedom, the religious use of peyote, and statutory exemptions for religious organizations, Fisher demonstrates that we must understand the political and not just the judicial context for the safeguards that protect religious minorities.


For a long time we've needed someone to challenge the judicial supremacists on church-state issues and I'm thrilled that Fisher has done so in this book....A wonderfully bold and important work that is sure to make a splash in the fields of religion, law, and politics. ALLEN D. HERTZKE, COAUTHOR OF RELIGION AND POLITICS IN AMERICA "This book is a rare treat. It is comprehensive enough to serve as a reference on legislative and judicial policymaking on church-state matters. Yet it is also a lively read, full of fascinating detail on the history of church-state issues." CLYDE WILCOX, AUTHOR OF ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS: THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT IN AMERICAN POLITICS "A remarkably fresh and stimulating book that deserves a wide readership." DEREK H. DAVIS, DIRECTOR OF THE J.M. DAWSON INSTITUTE OF CHURCH-STATE STUDIES AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Pages 248
Date Published 30 Sep 2002
Publisher University Press of Kansas
Subject/s Religious Studies   Human rights   Constitution: government & the state  
Louis Fisher is Senior Specialist in Separation of Powers at the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Among his books are Presidential War Power and Constitutional Conflicts Between Congress and the President, both from Kansas.

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