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Marriage and Divorce in a Multicultural Context

by Joel A. Nichols

American family law makes two key assumptions: first, that the civil state possesses sole authority over marriage and divorce; and second, that the civil law may contain only one regulatory regime for such matters. These assumptions run counter to the multicultural and religiously plural nature of our society. This book elaborates how those assumptions are descriptively incorrect, and it begins an important conversation about whether more pluralism in family law is normatively desirable. For example, may couples rely upon religious tribunals (Jewish, Muslim, or otherwise) to decide family law disputes? May couples opt into stricter divorce rules, either through premarital contracts or 'covenant marriages'? How should the state respond? Intentionally interdisciplinary and international in scope, this volume contains contributions from fourteen leading scholars. The authors address the provocative question of whether the state must consider sharing its jurisdictional authority with other groups in family law.

Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment (3rd Edition)

by Joel A. Nichols John Witte Jr.

This volume offers a novel reading of the American constitutional experiment in religious liberty. The First Amendment, John Witte argues, is a synthesis of both the theological convictions and the political calculations of the eighteenth-century American founders. The founders incorporated six interdependent principles into the First Amendment-liberty of conscience, freedom of exercise, equality of faiths, plurality of confessions, disestablishment of religion, and separation of church and state. Both the nuance and the balance of these six principles have often been lost on current interpreters of the First Amendment. Particularly the Supreme Court has tended to reduce the First Amendment to mechanical tests and metaphorical formulae that often replace, rather than guide, its analysis and application of these principles. First Amendment doctrine today has thus become notoriously confused, casuistic, and self-contradictory. Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment urges a return to the principled approach to religious rights, evident both in the American founding era and in the modern international human rights movement. Witte uses these principles to analyze the free exercise and establishment case law of the last two centuries. He then illustrates the virtues of his principled approach through analysis of the thorny contests over tax exemptions for religions, the role of religion in the public school, among others. This lucid and engaging volume serves both as a provocative primer for students and a pristine restatement for specialists in law, religion, history, politics, and American studies. Through a fresh reading of the sources and cases, and through the discovery and introduction of several new materials, the author reclaims the essential value, vigor, and vitality of our most cherished religious rights and liberties.

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