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Idolatry and Faith: The Jurisprudence of Sanford Levinson

Jack M. Balkin

Yale University - Law School

Tulsa Law Journal, Forthcoming

This essay discusses several of the themes of Sanford Levinson's work, focusing particularly on his comparison between law and religious faith, and his view of the United States Constitution as the nation's civic religion. The article argues that if faith in law is like religious faith, it must also respond to the dangers of idolatry and the problem of apology for the evils of the world.

The article discusses the role of lawyers as rhetors, law as a performing art, and Levinson's well-known distinction between constitutional catholicism - belief in a central authority that determines the meaning of the Constitution - and constitutional protestantism - belief in the right and duty of individuals to determine for themselves what the Constitution means.

The article concludes by deconstructing the catholicism/protestantism distinction, showing that although the distinction is not as clear-cut as Levinson originally imagined, it leads to an intriguing theory of what constitutional law is and how it is made by non-judicial actors.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 25

Keywords: Levinson, faith, religion, law, catholicism, protestantism, idolatry, apology

JEL Classification: K1

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Date posted: April 23, 2003  

Suggested Citation

Balkin, Jack M., Idolatry and Faith: The Jurisprudence of Sanford Levinson. Tulsa Law Journal, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=397140 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.397140

Contact Information

Jack M. Balkin (Contact Author)
Yale University - Law School ( email )
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203-432-1620 (Phone)

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