Religion in the Law: An Open Access Casebook - First Edition
Joe Dunman, Morehead State University
Copyright Year: 2021
Publisher: L. Joe Dunman
Conditions of Use
The breadth of this text is astounding in terms of the cases that are presented and covered. The book starts off with an overview of religion in the US and had a very useful section on how to read an opinion (and the relevant terminology, which... read more
The breadth of this text is astounding in terms of the cases that are presented and covered. The book starts off with an overview of religion in the US and had a very useful section on how to read an opinion (and the relevant terminology, which functions a little like a glossary). It is always difficult to "edit" which cases should be included, and I think the author has done an excellent job in including a good variety. There is no glossary or index, but since it is a case book, the list of cases provides this function.
From what I can tell, the opinions presented are the original wording, and the commentary that follows is useful and accurate.
The case book includes classic or "landmark" decision in the area, and some notable recent opinions such as Snyder v. Phelps and Holt v. Hobbs. Given the Supreme Court's rulings in the last term, it will likely be updated soon with cases such as American Legion v. American Humanist Society and Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. I like how it has an updated section on COVID-19, and think this is an example of how the author adds contemporary cases/issues that blend well with the overall text. Although COVID-19 is still considered a contemporary event, I think it is one that will remain important over time (not just trendy, or obsolete soon) and helps illustrate broader principles of constitutional law and Supreme Court decision making.
The book is written in an easy to understand, almost conversational, style. It should be very accessible to students at all levels. Terms are clearly defined. I like the way a concept is discussed across cases in the commentary, such as the Lemon Test.
The book follows a consistent framework and consistently discusses terminology across cases.
I think this book will easily break down into sections; the author does a great job of this in the table of contents. Even within sections, it would be easy for an instructor to assign a particular case or set of cases from the text as part of a particular class or lesson.
The organization is one of the strongest points of the book, and I am very enthusiastic about how the author breaks down cases into sections of constitutional law/topics.
I had no issues with the interface; it is very user-friendly.
No major grammatical issues noted. Prose is clean, concise, and flows well.
The book takes a neutral position and present cases as written in their original form. The author encourages students to challenge what they read and not assume that everything is correct (thereby allowing students the space to form their own thoughts on these controversial issues, making them dynamic).
I particularly liked the way the author discussed individual justices in the commentary and how they voted in opinions. I also really liked the style in which the commentary was written, as it is seems to explain very challenging concepts to students in an accessible way. I will definitely use some sections of this text in my constitutional law class next semester.
Table of Contents
- First Principles
- Free Exercise
- Special Problems
About the Book
This casebook features nearly sixty cases from American courts that involve, in some important way, religious belief and action. The book is divided into sections: First Principles, Establishment, Free Exercise, and Special Problems. Each section includes landmark or otherwise influential cases that have influenced American law and religious practice. Most cases come from the U.S. Supreme Court but the lower federal and state courts are also represented.In the contextual introductions to each section and subpart, I have tried to give the reader a basis for understanding how the cases came about and why I chose them for this book. I have tried to minimize editorial comment. I have cited some scholarship where I think it would be helpful, but please do not mistake this as an attempt to produce a comprehensive treatise on the subject of religion in the law. It is a casebook, and a short one, all things considered. At the end of each introductory part is a short “further reading” list. I chose those articles because I found each of them interesting and useful to under-standing the topics that precede them. Their selection is not necessarily an endorsement of each author’s arguments, though I do agree with some of them.I designed this casebook specifically for my own use in a 400-level undergraduate seminar called Law & Society. Class sessions using this book are intended to be student-led, roundtable talks with the professor acting as discussion prompter and neutral mediator. Generally, two cases are assigned for each class session. I selected, edited, and arranged the cases to complement each other thematically and chronologically to the best of my ability. Many of the cases include overlapping topics and could fit into multiple categories, so I took some liberties in their arrangement. Your mileage may vary.
About the Contributors
L. Joe Dunman, Morehead State UniversityAssistant Professor of Legal Studies