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Talking About Religion in the Language of the Law: Impossible But Necessary

26 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2014  

James Boyd White

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor Law School

Date Written: 1998

Abstract

As my title suggests, what has struck me most in these reflections is the simplest and most obvious fact, namely the enormous difficulty of talking about religion in the language of the law. In what follows I shall try to explain what seem to me to be some of the reasons for this, beginning with some that will be highly familiar to you, relating to the history and structure of our Constitution, then going on to some that are more speculative in nature. I will conclude by asking how, in light of these circumstances, courts ought to think about questions of religion, particularly in the context defined by the First Amendment. My aim is not to propose rules of law, but to make some suggestions about the attitudes with which judges might approach these questions.

Keywords: law, religion, First Amendment, United States Constitution

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

White, James Boyd, Talking About Religion in the Language of the Law: Impossible But Necessary (1998). Marquette Law Review, Vol. 81, No. 2 (1998): 177-202; U of Michigan Law & Econ Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2383244

James Boyd White (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
332 Hutchins Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734-936-2989 (Phone)

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