The Impossibility of Religious Freedom

The Impossibility of Religious Freedom

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7s89d
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  • Book Info
    The Impossibility of Religious Freedom
    Book Description:

    The Constitution may guarantee it. But religious freedom in America is, in fact, impossible. So argues this timely and iconoclastic work by law and religion scholar Winnifred Sullivan. Sullivan uses as the backdrop for the book the trial of Warner vs. Boca Raton, a recent case concerning the laws that protect the free exercise of religion in America. The trial, for which the author served as an expert witness, concerned regulations banning certain memorials from a multiconfessional nondenominational cemetery in Boca Raton, Florida. The book portrays the unsuccessful struggle of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish families in Boca Raton to preserve the practice of placing such religious artifacts as crosses and stars of David on the graves of the city-owned burial ground.

    Sullivan demonstrates how, during the course of the proceeding, citizens from all walks of life and religious backgrounds were harassed to define just what their religion is. She argues that their plight points up a shocking truth: religion cannot be coherently defined for the purposes of American law, because everyone has different definitions of what religion is. Indeed, while religious freedom as a political idea was arguably once a force for tolerance, it has now become a force for intolerance, she maintains.

    A clear-eyed look at the laws created to protect religious freedom, this vigorously argued book offers a new take on a right deemed by many to be necessary for a free democratic society. It will have broad appeal not only for religion scholars, but also for anyone interested in law and the Constitution.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4082-3
    Subjects: Law, Religion, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Note on Sources
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This book is about the impossibility of religious freedom. Many laws, constitutions, and international treaties today grant legally enforceable rights to those whose religious freedom is infringed. Stories of the conflict between the demands of religion and the demands of law are daily news items all over the world, and take a familiar patterned form. Schoolgirls in France seek permission to wear thehijabto school. Sikhs in Britain seek exemption from motorcycle helmet laws. Muslim women seek civil divorces in India on the same ground as their Hindu and Christian neighbors. The Jehovah’s Witnesses seek the right to be...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Outlaw Religion
    (pp. 13-31)

    THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO the trial in theWarnercase took place in the City of Boca Raton, which is located in the southern Florida county of Palm Beach. Boca Raton, orBoca Ratones, Spanish for “the rat’s mouth” (or perhaps “the pirates’ cove,” describing a natural harbor on the southeastern coast of Florida in which Spanish ships may have taken shelter during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries),¹ was, like much of southeastern Florida, a swampy backwater until the twentieth century. Only sixty years ago, Boca Raton had a population of nine hundred and was dominated by a recently...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  9. CHAPTER 2 The Trial: The Plaintiffs
    (pp. 32-53)

    THEWARNERCASE was tried over the course of one week in March 1999 in the federal courthouse in Boca Raton before the Honorable Kenneth L. Ryskamp. Judge Ryskamp is a graduate and member of the board of trustees of Calvin College. His legal training was at the University of Miami Law School. After a successful career as a practicing lawyer in Florida, Ryskamp was appointed to the bench by President Reagan in 1986. Ryskamp is an active churchman, a member of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.¹ He drafted the legal documents for the Florida churches...

  10. CHAPTER 3 The Trial: The Other Witnesses
    (pp. 54-88)

    THE OTHER WITNESSES for the plaintiffs included two city employees, Donna Driscoll, the city manager of Boca Raton, and Joseph Cogley, the deputy director for the Recreation Services Department; two experts in fields other than religion, John Metzler, the superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery, and Andrew Verzilli, a financial analyst; and the three experts on religion: Michael Broyde, John McGuckin, and myself.

    The two city witnesses were called as “adverse” witnesses for the plaintiff, that is, although they were employees of the City, the plaintiffs called them to testify as a part of the plaintiffs’ case in order to establish...

  11. CHAPTER 4 Legal Religion
    (pp. 89-137)

    THE FOLLOWING DAY, Friday, the attorneys gave their closing arguments and Judge Ryskamp announced his decision. (I was not present for this last day, and so rely entirely on the transcript for this.) Jim Green’s closing began with a summary of the testimony of the various witnesses, emphasizing, as he did in his opening, the religiousness of the plaintiffs’ actions within the context of their various religious traditions:

    It may well be difficult to draw a bright line around what is religious and what isn’t. This case, as I think your Honor must realize by now, does not involve a...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Free Religion
    (pp. 138-160)

    EVEN IF THE JUDGE, the lawyers, and the expert witnesses in theWarnercase had gotten it right, in some sense, even if they had understood and proved faithful to what they were hearing from the plaintiffs, would that have made religious freedom possible in this case? The argument of this book is, finally, that the law probably cannot get it right—today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It depends, in part, on howlawis imagined, of course, as well as religion and religious freedom. But if, bylaw, we mean statutes and constitutions—the positivist secular...

  13. Appendices
    • Appendix A: Relevant Law: Excerpts from U.S. and Florida Constitutions, RFRA, FRFRA, and Rules and Regulations of Boca Raton Cemetery
      (pp. 161-178)
    • Appendix B: Expert Reports of Broyde, Katz, McGuckin, Pals, and Sullivan
      (pp. 179-218)
    • Appendix C: Ryskamp Opinion
      (pp. 219-244)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 245-268)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-280)
  16. Index
    (pp. 281-286)