Christopher L. Eisgruber
Religious Freedom and the Constitution by Christopher L. Eisgruber and Lawrence G. Sager
(Harvard University Press, February 2007)
Religion has become a charged token in a politics of division. In disputes about faith-based social services, public money for religious schools, the Pledge of Allegiance, Ten Commandments monuments, the theory of evolution, and many other topics, angry contestation threatens to displace America's historic commitment to religious freedom. Part of the problem, the authors argue, is that constitutional analysis of religious freedom has been hobbled by the idea of "a wall of separation" between church and state. That metaphor has been understood to demand that religion be treated far better than other concerns in some contexts, and far worse in others. Sometimes it seems to insist on both contrary forms of treatment simultaneously. Missing has been concern for the fair and equal treatment of religion. In response, the authors offer an understanding of religious freedom called Equal Liberty.
Equal Liberty is guided by two principles. First, no one within the reach of the Constitution ought to be devalued on account of the spiritual foundation of their commitments. Second, all persons should enjoy broad rights of free speech, personal autonomy, associative freedom, and private property. Together, these principles are generous and fair to a wide range of religious beliefs and practices.
With Equal Liberty as their guide, the authors offer practical, moderate, and appealing terms for the settlement of many hot-button issues that have plunged religious freedom into controversy. Their book calls Americans back to the project of finding fair terms of cooperation for a religiously diverse people, and it offers a valuable set of tools for working toward that end.
The Next Justice: Repairing the Supreme Court Appointments Process by Christopher L. Eisgruber
(Princeton University Press, February 2007)
The Supreme Court appointments process is broken, and the timing couldn't be worse--for liberals or conservatives. The Court is just one more solid conservative justice away from an ideological sea change--a hard-right turn on an array of issues that affect every American, from abortion to environmental protection. But neither those who look at this prospect with pleasure nor those who view it with horror will be able to make informed judgments about the next nominee to the Court--unless the appointments process is fixed now. In The Next Justice, Christopher Eisgruber boldly proposes a way to do just that. He describes a new and better manner of deliberating about who should serve on the Court--an approach that puts the burden on nominees to show that their judicial philosophies and politics are acceptable to senators and citizens alike. And he makes a new case for the virtue of judicial moderates.
Long on partisan rancor and short on serious discussion, today's appointments process reveals little about what kind of judge a nominee might make. Eisgruber argues that the solution is to investigate how nominees would answer a basic question about the Court's role: When and why is it beneficial for judges to trump the decisions of elected officials? Through an examination of the politics and history of the Court, Eisgruber demonstrates that pursuing this question would reveal far more about nominees than do other tactics, such as investigating their views of specific precedents or the framers' intentions.
Written with great clarity and energy, The Next Justice provides a welcome exit from the uninformative political theater of the current appointments process.