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When Free Exercise and Nonestablishment Conflict, Kent Greenawalt

Reviewed by Lucas Swaine



This fine book explores tensions between the free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment. Divided into 10 chapters, the book offers reflections and recommendations for the American experience, seeking to address a wide range of subjects in “easily accessible” ways (p. 3). The topics and subtopics run the gamut, with Greenawalt examining such matters as financial support for religious institutions, government involvement with religious practices, exemptions and other forms of favorable treatment, the distinctiveness of religion, and the place of religious convictions in public life.

Greenawalt highlights distinctions between constitutional requirements, constitutional limits, and what would be “just and wise” to do (pp. 2, 3, 21; cf. p. 248). Values of free exercise and nonestablishment can count even when dealing with constitutionally permitted practices, he proposes, or when constitutional requirements are not at issue (p. 56; cf. p. 136). In cases in which judicial deference would prevent legislation from being ruled invalid, legislatures still ought to consider whether proposed decisions would violate the Constitution (pp. 45-46, 56).

With these markers in place, Greenawalt unfolds a nuanced jurisprudential map. There are hazards everywhere. Parents who decline to seek medical care for their children rais

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