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Book Review

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Levine begins this review essay by noting that at the outset of his discussion, Gedicks notes the difficulty one faces in critically engaging Supreme Court decisions in the area of church and state law. Gedicks goes on to premise his analysis on the identification of “competing rhetorical discourses of church-state relations,” through which he attempts to “organize virtually all of religion clause doctrine.” Gedicks applies this phenomenon, which he terms “discourse,” to church and state law. Thus, in The Rhetoric of Church and State: A Critical Analysis of Religion Clause Jurisprudence, Professor Gedicks succeeds in his goal of providing a thoughtful look at many of the central issues in current church-state law “at a level deeper than doctrine.” Levine states that the book's most important contribution may be its identification of competing discourses which see the relationship between church and state through different and somewhat incompatible world views. As Gedicks convincingly illustrates throughout the book, it is the basic differences between discourses that make the pursuit of religious neutrality so elusive. Gedicks concludes the book with a call for a third discourse of church and state, one that could weave the threads of religion clause jurisprudence into a coherent whole and attract popular support, which secular individualism had failed to do, and which could also protect a meaningful measure of religious freedom and pluralism, which religious communitarianism would threaten. Though Gedicks does not identify such a solution, he acknowledges that, as his analysis often - though perhaps not always self-consciously - demonstrates, “since each of these discourses is antithetical to the other, efforts to mediate a compromise position between the two are doomed.”


Review of The Rhetoric of Church and State: A critical Analysis of Religion Clause Jurisprudence. By Frederick Mark Gedicks. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. pp. 196.

Source Publication

13 J. L. & Religion 531

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Religion Law Commons