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Linda McClain’s book is a meticulously researched and compellingly presented study of moral and political language. She illuminates the different ways in which the term “bigot” has been used in American constitutional law, from the battles over slavery in the nineteenth century to the skirmishes over same sex marriage in the twenty-first. As they are currently configured, contemporary legal controversies pit the religious freedom of devout Christians against the rights LGBTQ Americans to be treated with dignity and equality in the public square.

As a theologian as well as a law professor, I have found myself increasingly frustrated with the way in which religion is framed in today’s free exercise litigation. Religious belief is presented as adamant, full of feeling, and insulated from both intellectual content and broader critique. This view of religion is supported not only by those skeptical of its value in American public life, but also by its purported friends, such as the Becket Fund. In the long run, I believe conceptualizing religion in a way that divorces feeling from reason will be harmful for both religious communities themselves and for a nation that continues to include many religious believers. McClain’s book has helped me understand why this is the case.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
7 Sep 2022
952 kB



  • Subject
    • Politics

    • Religion Law

    • Sexuality and Sexual Orientation

  • Journal title
    • Balkinization

  • Date submitted

    7 September 2022