Wexler is a smart-aleck relapsed-Jewish atheist law professor, pretty much polar opposite in spiritual and political views to my fundamentalist Protestant conservative views. But he's also a funny and insightful writer. If he had written the law books I had to research during my coursework on legal research for my Master of Library Science degree program, I might have taken up my father on his offer to pay for me to get my law degree. Instead I had to research other dry-as-dust law books, so our careers paths took different directions.
Wexler backs up his premise--onsite visits to the geographic sites at the center of major church/state First Amendment battles in the United States--with clear, concise, interesting (and even funny) historical context , legal arguments, and Supreme Court outcomes. Wexler's explanations in understandable language lay bare the legal issues so that an engaged layperson can think about and consider her response to the legal issue and the Supreme Court ruling.
There are still some things that are too subtle for my unwashed nonlegal brain. For example, on p. 108 while explicating the Ten Commandments on Government property issue, Wexler says that the jurisdictions in question "changed their displays to make them even more unconstitutional" by adding copies of eight foundational documents such as the Declaration of Independence. I can't see (and Wexler doesn't explain) how foundational documents upon which the Constitution is based could be unconstitutional. That would be as if a building inspector rejected a building foundation as unsafe, but approved the building erected on top of it.
I also take issue with Wexler's straw man argument that Intelligent Design (ID) is a Trojan Horse to slip Christianity into the classroom. Wexler says (on p. 209) that some ID proponents believe that "aliens from another planet may have created the world, or (my favorite) that human beings traveled back in time to do it." No Biblical-literalist Christian who is using ID as a stealth wedge for creationism would make non-Biblical claims such as these. So Wexler needs to be more subtle and precise in his description of the ID and creationist position here to strengthen his argument.
Wexler ends strong with a well-written argument from law, logic and passion that religion is too valuable as a counterbalance to state abuse of power to risk being subject to state control or service.
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About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager (TStocksl)
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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