Religion and the Law in American History -- Recent Reviews

The Legal History Blog calls attention to some bracing reviews and critiques of recent books on American religion and the law. First up:

Allen K. Rostron, University of Missouri, Kansas City, School of Law, has just posted a review essay, Demythologizing the Legal History of the Jehovah's Witnesses and the First Amendment. The essay takes up Shawn Francis Peters, Judging Jehovah's Witnesses: Religious Persecution and the Dawn of the Rights Revolution. While the book appeared in 2000, and the essay in 2004 (Quinnipiac Law Review), the essay makes a point that will be of interest beyond its examination of Peters' book. A particularly interesting criticism, which we could think of in the context of litigation involving other groups, is that Peters addresses the impact of the Witnesses on the law, but does not adequately turn his lens around, and explore the way involvement in litigation affected the Witnesses.

Here's Rostron's abstract, from the Social Science Research Network.

Next up, also courtesy of Mary Dudziak:

To follow up on the last post, Shawn Francis Peters has another, more recent book: The Yoder Case: Religious Freedom, Education, and Parental Rights (2003). This is in the series: Landmark Law Cases and American Society from the University Press of Kansas. These books are often terrific for course adoption.

Click here for a fuller discussion of the book and this seminal case.

I'm working currently on a long-term project (a book presently called Religion, Race, and American Ideas of Freedom) that deals with what I call the "social history of religious freedom," looking especially at the history of religious freedom from the standpoint of ethno-religious communities -- or, to put it another way, the history of religious freedom from the standpoint of those who, for much of American history, didn't have it. More on that in future posts.


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