Cover: The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America, from Harvard University PressCover: The Spirit of the Law in HARDCOVER

The Spirit of the Law

Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America

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Product Details


$29.95 • £23.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674046542

Publication Date: 04/30/2010


352 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

21 halftones

Belknap Press


The Spirit of the Law subtly suggests that the era of strong evangelical influence in America culture may be at least temporarily over.—David Skeel, Books & Culture

Sally Gordon turns the accepted wisdom neatly on its head by demonstrating that it is the extraordinary power of the religious impulse that has shaped—and continues to shape—American law, not the other way around… [An] excellent book.—Burt Neuborne, Forward

By exploring the odd and interesting lives and lawsuits of dissenting twentieth-century believers, Sarah Barringer Gordon provides us with a novel and compelling modern constitutional history of American religion.—Hendrik Hartog, author of Man and Wife in America: A History

This dazzling book explores the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Black Muslims, white evangelical Protestant women, and others who, beginning in the 1940s, made law crucial to religious life. It is a wonderful read that brilliantly illuminates the creative tension between law and religion in recent American history.—Laura Kalman, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara

Gordon demonstrates how the dazzling variety of religious expression in America since the 1930s has outpaced the capacity of judges and legal theorists to construct a stable constitutional law of religion. By implication, the book also raises questions about whether any constitutional theory can keep pace with the dynamic pluralism of American constitutional argument.—William E. Nelson, Weinfeld Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

Gordon puts flesh and blood on the most heated law and religion disputes of the last seven decades. Looking at these disputes primarily through the religious eyes of colorful activists committed to making a constitutional difference, she makes legal and religious history come alive in an important and engaging way.—Steve Shiffrin, author of The Religious Left and Church–State Relations

A masterful study…insightful and provocative, well-written and entertaining. I know of no other book like it.—Mark Silk, author of One Nation, Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics

Awards & Accolades

  • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2010
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