The Dissent of the Governed; The Americanization of Religious Minorities; The Lustre of Our Country; God versus Caesar

STEPHEN L. CARTER. The Dissent of the Governed: A Meditation on Law, Religion, and Loyalty. Harvard University Press, 1998.

ERIC MICHAEL MAZUR. The Americanization of Religious Minorities: Confronting the Constitutional Order. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

JOHN T. NOONAN JR. The Lustre of Our Country: The American Experience of Religious Freedom. University of California Press, 1998.

MARTIN S. SHEFFER. God versus Caesar: Belief, Worship and Proselytizing under the First Amendment. State University of New York Press, 1999.

Four recently published books written by non-Latter-day Saint legal scholars and political scientists look at Mormon history as a means of examining the scope of constitutionally protected religious freedoms in the United States. The federal campaign against plural marriage in the late nineteenth century emerges as the main period of interest for each scholar. While none is a proponent of plural marriage, each see the Raid as a landmark low point in the history of American religious freedom. For example, circuit court judge John T. Noonan identifies the property confiscations, imprisonments, test oaths, suffrage revocations, and constriction of religious practice that Latter-day Saints endured in the 1880s as the result of a “mass of intolerant legislation.”

Martin S. Sheffer, emeritus professor of political science at Tuskegee University, begins his book by suggesting that Reynolds v. United States—in which the Supreme Court in 1887 upheld the conviction of a Latter-day Saint polygamist—set an unfortunate pivotal precedent in interpreting the religious freedom clause of the First Amendment. This ruling made a distinction between belief and practice. It forbade laws against beliefs that stay inside a person’s head but gave legislators virtually free reign to draft laws criminalizing any religious activity deemed offensive to community morals. He gives many examples of what he considers the negative effects of Reynolds but focuses on cases having to do with alternative education and conscientious objection.

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