Free Exercise of Religion and the United States Constitution: The Supreme Court’s Challenge, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Free Exercise of Religion and the United States Constitution

The Supreme Court’s Challenge, 1st Edition

By Mark P. Strasser


158 pages

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Hardback: 9780815366898
pub: 2018-03-07
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The United States is extremely diverse religiously and, not infrequently, individuals sincerely contend that they are unable to act in accord with law as a matter of conscience. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the free exercise of religion and the United States Supreme Court has issued many decisions exploring the depth and breadth of those protections. This book addresses the Court’s free exercise jurisprudence, discussing what counts as religion and the protections that have been afforded to a variety of religious practices. Regrettably, the Court has not offered a principled and consistent account of which religious practices are protected or even how to decide whether a particular practice is protected, which has resulted in similar cases being treated dissimilarly. Further, the Court’s free exercise jurisprudence has been used to provide guidance in interpreting federal statutory protections, which is making matters even more chaotic.

This book attempts to clarify what the Court has said in the hopes that it will contribute to the development of a more consistent and principled jurisprudence that respects the rights of the religious and the non-religious.


'Mark Strasser provides a fascinating and important analysis of the United States Supreme Court’s free exercise jurisprudence. He points out the Court’s failure to set and apply coherent standards, first under the Free Exercise Clause and later under RFRA. As a result, the lower courts have struggled to craft any sort of consistent doctrine under RFRA and under state RFRAs. Strasser explains that this works against accommodations for religious people and against those who oppose religious accommodation. This book is an important addition to the discussion of free exercise rights.'

Frank S. Ravitch, Michigan State University College of Law, USA

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Free exercise and the definition of religion

Chapter 2: Institutional autonomy and the ministerial exception

Chapter 3: Fighting wars and claims of conscience

Chapter 4: Early modern free exercise

Chapter 5: Free exercise becomes (more) chaotic

Chapter 6: The Smith revolution

Chapter 7: Corporate conscience

Chapter 8: Lower courts and the protection of religion

About the Author

Mark Strasser is Trustees Professor of Law at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio. His previous books include Religion, Education and the State: An Unprincipled Doctrine in Search of Moorings (2011), Same-Sex Unions Across the United States (2011), On Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, and the Rule of Law: Constitutional Interpretation at the Crossroads (2002), The Challenge of Same-Sex Marriage: Federalist Principles and Constitutional Protections (1999), Legally Wed: Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution (1997), Agency, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility (1992), The Moral Philosophy of John Stuart Mill: Toward Modifications of Contemporary Utilitarianism (1991), and Francis Hutcheson’s Moral Theory: Its Form and Utility (1990).

About the Series

ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

The ICLARS Series on Law and Religion is designed to provide a forum for the rapidly expanding field of research in law and religion. The series is published in association with the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies, an international network of scholars and experts of law and religion founded in 2007 with the aim of providing a place where information, data and opinions can easily be exchanged among members and made available to the broader scientific community ( The series aims to become a primary source for students and scholars while presenting authors with a valuable means to reach a wide and growing readership.

The series editors are currently welcoming proposals for this new series on any matter falling under ‘law and religion’ widely defined. Collections arising from important conferences and events are welcome as well as monographs by both established names and new voices (including monographs based on doctoral dissertations). Also of interest are interdisciplinary works and studies of particular jurisdictions.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Civil Rights
LAW / Comparative
LAW / Constitutional
LAW / Courts
LAW / Jurisprudence
LAW / Legal History
LAW / Discrimination
RELIGION / Religion, Politics & State