Read Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battlegrounds of the Church/State Wars by Jay Wexler Online


After ten years spent riddling over the intricacies of church/state law from the ivory tower, law professor Jay Wexler decided it was high time to hit the road to learn what really happened in some of the most controversial Supreme Court cases involving this hot-button issue. In Holy Hullabaloos, he takes us along for the ride, crossing the country to meet the people and vAfter ten years spent riddling over the intricacies of church/state law from the ivory tower, law professor Jay Wexler decided it was high time to hit the road to learn what really happened in some of the most controversial Supreme Court cases involving this hot-button issue. In Holy Hullabaloos, he takes us along for the ride, crossing the country to meet the people and visit the places responsible for landmark decisions in recent judicial history, from a high school football field where fans once recited prayers before kickoff to a Santeria church notorious for animal sacrifice, from a publicly funded Muslim school to a creationist museum. Wexler's no-holds-barred approach to investigating famous church/state brouhahas is as funny as it is informative....

Title : Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battlegrounds of the Church/State Wars
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780807000441
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battlegrounds of the Church/State Wars Reviews

  • gaby
    2019-05-06 08:42

    Nearly five years after graduating from law school, I can say with a half-shamed confidence that I almost never read legally-related books off the clock. In fact, I had to create that very shelf on goodreads just to house my electronic musings about this book. What's wrong with me, you might wonder? Do I not enjoy my chosen profession? Am I really so disinterested in one of the most culturally relevant, intellectually nuanced and vibrant areas of scholarly discourse in this country? Not so. I think the truth behind my disengagement lies somewhere in between "I'd rather be thinking about David Duchovny," and "I've forgotten most of what I learned in law school, so I probably wouldn't get much out of legal scholarship anyhow."This last point deserves a moment of elaboration. I feel a bit badly about it now, but I didn't end up retaining all that much from law school, besides a general framework for approaching social and systemic issues and some pretty good strategies for legal problem-solving (and avoiding a question). This isn't to say that I got bad grades or disliked the material. Sure, I constantly wore a black hoodie in a failed attempt at invisibility, devised elaborate schemes to avoid being cold-called in property class, and smoked a whole lot of cigarettes behind the law tower death star with some other scowling miscreants before and after classes. But I was serious about school (at least, between practices for my black metal band), and generally found it to be a transformational intellectual experience. However, at this point I know for certain that almost all of the facts I learned in law school have atrophied down a rabbit-holed haze of what biopsychologists would term 'trace decay.' With a few exceptions, I would fail every single final exam in law school if I were to take them cold now (not to mention the bar exam). Can I currently explain the Supreme Court's test for whether a search/seizure is constitutional? Unfortunately, no. Can I tell you absolutely anything of value about the circumstances under which evidence of prior bad acts can be admitted into court (any court)? Again, hell no I can't. So, in short, five years later, reading intense legal scholarship outside of my specialized niche area can be something of a slog -- and certainly doesn't often qualify as recreation.Which brings me to Holy Hullabaloos (this was supposed to be a book review, right?). No need to fret, non-lawyers and lawyers who might as well not be lawyers based on their level of current knowledge about most legal topics! Part travelogue, part constitutional law primer, this book manages to be a page-turner in a genre I thought categorically excluded that concept. Wexler writes about the development and current state of church/state jurisprudence in a style that manages to be charmingly humble and utterly without pedantry, yet easily conveys his principled viewpoints and depth of intellect and knowledge. In the end, the book isn't "about" the law so much as it is "about" an issue (the separation of church and state) that has a grave, if often subterranean, effect on our public and private lives. And, with all of its anecdotes about traipsing around the country to visit obscure sites and campy/terrifying Americana while the rest of us sit in an office all day, it's yet another book that makes a fine case for the academic life. Sigh.

  • Holly
    2019-05-16 12:29

    Disclaimers: The author is one of my favorite law professors and I'm mentioned in the acknowledgments(!). This was very entertaining and easy to read -- no knowledge of the law needed, just a general interest in the major church-state issues that the U.S. has grappled with. The explanations of these controversies, along with Wexler's travel stories, are so interesting and accessible that I wished he had left out his personal views on religion and politics because I think they risk turning off some readers. My favorite chapters were those discussing the daily prayers that take place in Congress and the state of religion in public schools (particularly the pledge of allegiance versus prayers at school events, but also the creationism/evolution debate). Also, I definitely recommend a visit to the Creation Museum, which he describes. My husband and I visited a few years ago and were in awe at the exhibits. (My favorite sign was in an empty display case: "This space is still evolving.")I feel compelled to add one nerdy, pithy correction: Wexler mentions the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) in passing, which was exciting because I have written two amici ("friend of the court") briefs on this law recently. Wexler states that RLUIPA reinstated strict scrutiny. To the extent that he is only referring to RLUIPA's substantial burden provision, that's correct. But RLUIPA contains several other provisions, and the circuits are currently split over which level of scrutiny applies to the equal terms provision. Ok, nerdy pithiness complete. I LOVED the discussion of how to pronounce RLUIPA. Most people in my office say "ruh-loopa," although two of my colleagues say "arr-loopa," which makes sense because they are both pirates.

  • Evanston PublicLibrary
    2019-05-11 07:23

    After ten years of teaching law and religion courses, Wexler decided he wanted to write a book that explained the complex and nuanced legal arguments involving the separation of church and state. And, he reasoned, what better way to do this than a road trip to the very hotspots where the battles took place? The result is a cross-country jaunt that's part travelogue, part law for the layperson, and part humorous anecdotes and impressions. In such chapters as "Hasidic Hullabaloo" (New York state), "Amish Agitation" (Wisconsin), and "Ball-Field Brouhaha" (Texas), we are enlightened on why these cases arose, how they were argued, and the legal reasoning behind the judgments. Readers will learn, among other things, why animal sacrifice is indeed legal in Florida; why a public school district was created to service a deeply religious, homogeneous community that already had a parochial school; and what the law says about another deeply religious community that refuses to send its pre-teens to school at all. These heavyweight issues are handled with a light touch by Wexler who, I imagine, teaches his classes with a similarly wry take on things, and his lively book offers us a perfect way to grasp an ongoing and evolving debate in America today. (Barbara L., Reader's Services)

  • Janis
    2019-05-10 13:21

    Jay Wexler offers a fascinating look – written with clarity and humor from a generous and open-hearted perspective – at some of the legal cases involving church/state issues as he takes readers along on a road trip to the various locations where they were fought.

  • Bob Calder
    2019-05-06 13:28

    History and fun. What could be more fun than a road trip to discover the personalities behind the court cases?

  • Todd Stockslager
    2019-05-22 12:38

    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.

  • Lisa
    2019-05-08 06:26

    My favorite thing about the book--aside from its extreme readability--is that, unlike the last _four_ church-state books I read, this author acknowledges the experience and significance of Native Americans in church-state issues in more than a cursory, "let me swiftly mention that one obligatory peyote case" kind of way. Granted, Wexler does go over the peyote case (Employment Division v. Smith) quite swiftly, but he also mentions the Lyng & Blackhawk cases, and states in the introduction that Native Americans "are indispensable to fully understanding American religious history." That may not sound like much--it probably comes out to around 1% of the book--but compared to the near complete silence regarding Native Americans in other books that present themselves as overviews of church-state issues, Wexler's acknowledgement kind of makes me want to give him a medal. In a similar vein, Wexler states that he doesn't intend his book to be a comprehensive summary of American religiosity, and this admission foreshadows his dedication to inclusiveness. No matter how snarky he gets about other folks' religious beliefs, Wexler's analysis of church-state law is infused with a deep underlying respect, if not for certain religious beliefs themselves (for example, creationism--see chapter 8), then for the right to believe. I think that's a really great value for a law and religion expert to establish as a main take-away for readers.Sometimes Wexler wrote too cleverly & hyperbolically for my taste, but I give "Holy Hullabaloos" five stars because a church-state road trip is an awesome idea, and because the book is a great way to learn about the topic in an entertaining and thoughtful way.

  • Kurt
    2019-05-23 10:29

    This funny little book is a great overview of contemporary issues in church-state law. Wexler is clear about his biases as a law professor who was raised Jewish, admired some Eastern religions while in college, but has ultimately settled quite comfortably into an atheist life. In this book, he identifies a variety of concerns, from school vouchers to the Senate chaplain to prayer before football games, and each chapter weaves a brief travelogue into his academic discussion of the topics. I didn't find the personal travel observations to be all that enlightening or funny (except for the tour through the creation museum), but they didn't detract from the rest of the work, and they give Wexler a nice hook to sell the book as a whole. The book as a whole, by the way, is very good, with biased but fair and reasonable observations and accurate summaries of different cases that really help explain his points.I'm a lawyer, and a Christian, and I get in more than my share of frustrating conversations with people who want me to confirm that the Supreme Court has taken prayer out of schools - if I had the guts, I would refuse to have those conversations unless those people could promise me they had read this book. It's that accessible and it's that accurate.

  • Jj Burch
    2019-04-30 11:44

    Another fabulous gem found from a local "Little Free Library." No idea what I was getting into but found myself laughing out loud throughout. The author is hilarious, and knows his stuff. If you're interested in law, religion, and where they should and should not intersect, I highly recommend. I guess even if you're not that into these topics, I found his voice to be very engaging and relatable. He makes constitutional law understandable and interesting. He also doesn't disguise the fact that he's an atheist/liberal. With that being said, I don't think his views (which he makes clear throughout the book) cloud his thinking about law and the way law is carried out.Do you love America? Do you hate America? Either way you should probably read this.

  • Matthew
    2019-05-06 09:17

    I find that my view of religion in America is very close to Wexler's, but that's not why I liked the book. I found it to be interesting, funny and informative and it was enough of these things to appeal to both a lawyer and a non-lawyer (which isn't easy). Some may find Wexler's attitude towards religion to be somewhat offensively dismissive, but I suppose my response to that is that you should probably get that hint from the title of the book. Moreover, I think he recognizes he is dismissive, but is honest in the fact that he can't really help himself, so who am I to judge?? I think a lot of people are misinformed as to how the religion clauses work and we could all benefit from Wexler's easy to read journey through these clauses.

  • Amanda
    2019-05-25 14:25

    Interesting, entertaining, and informative. I didn't know about many of the cases Wexler used for his road trip, so I learned some new things. He delves deeply into these cases, laying out details and providing information and different sides of the story that I'd never thought about. These cases aren't as black-and-white as they seem on the surface. Wexler's style of writing is entertaining, but his overarching attitude is annoying. He assumes his reader has a deep knowledge of every Supreme Court case he mentions, and I felt stupid when I didn't. His scorn for religion grew tiresome after a hundred pages or so.

  • L (Sniffly Kitty)
    2019-05-04 06:43

    This book takes complex court cases involving religions vs the state and breaks them down into something easy to understand. Along the way, the author is quite amusing. I find him amusing probably because religiously, I am the same alignment as the author. I imagine many of those who are far "right" in their religious views will not be as amused as I was.This book is definitely a great overview to the many court (read Supreme Court usually) cases which shape our nation's policies toward the separation of church and state and religious freedoms. It also gives a fascinating glimpse of the characters behind these court cases.Disclaimer: I won this for free as part of First Reads.

  • Maria
    2019-05-07 10:42

    This was a fun book. Jay is self-deprecatingly witty and interesting. It didn't go into a lot of detail on each case, but it was a good general overview of church/state separation legal issues and cases. I especially enjoyed the author's conclusion at the end of the book that many of the people he met, while they were quirky and many held beliefs that he rejected, he couldn't just dismiss them as a New Atheist would. The world is made richer by the variety of religious thoughts and thinkers, but these belong to people and not to governments.

  • Claire
    2019-05-14 14:42

    WHY DOES THIS BOOK NOT HAVE AN INDEX? It ate up so much of my time when I was interested in Taoism, Buddhism, and Islam, which took until close to the end to appear.I mean, it might not be a scholarly book, but SERIOUSLY. I don't have the most time on the planet. It was mildly soothing to find this person is a Boston University professor who studied at Stanford, UChicago, Berkeley, Harvard, and some east-Asian schools, but it was SO informal I wouldn't believe it.So, I was able to find the information I wanted, but it wasn't as easy as boooks with indices have made me believe.

  • Kim
    2019-05-25 13:32

    Fun reading! Great mix of legal theory, opinion about the First Amendment, travelogue, and humor, in David Sedaris style. Entertaining but informative as well, about the dimensions of the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses and how they have played out in the Supreme Court in the last few decades. Lay and legal audiences both would love this book. I'd have given it 5 stars but the last chapters were a bit forgettable.

  • Liz
    2019-05-14 12:37

    Apparently the third time's a charm. I FINALLY finished this book. This was an informative and funny book about the separation of church and state. The author presented many cases and religions, and for the most part, did so with respect. I felt that the author didn't need to talk about being an atheist so much. It was pretty clear that he was one and I have no problem with that but it was mentioned a lot, I thought that was a little weird for some reason.

  • Mitchell
    2019-04-27 07:20

    I great fast non-fiction romp through US law around separation of church and state. Very informative but very informal. And by the end the author had gone a little to loose with his writing and a little too snarky in his attitude - so only a 4.5 out of 5. But it was interesting seeing a constitutional law professor who is also a lapsed jew (atheists) view on what the Supreme Court did and whether it got it right and why.

  • Paul Heidebrecht
    2019-05-12 08:37

    Nothing quite like it--constitutional law comedy travelogue. Wexler is very funny, sarcastic, witty, yet extremely insightful. He's an atheist with a lot of respect for religion, but not most Christian people. If you are one of the latter, be prepared for a beating. If you want a closer look at some of the landmark Court cases on religion, this is a great read.

  • Jim
    2019-05-18 14:21

    I am giving this book four stars based only on a cursory overview of the book. I simply can't do a heavy read right now, and even though Wexler's book is rather humorous in many spots, constitutional battles over church and state are not something I wish to tackle at the moment, so off to the Friends of the Library this one goes.

  • Robyn Franke
    2019-05-04 13:36

    At first I found the book a little pedantic - I did think that some of the explanations of the law were that difficult that they needed restating three or four times - but as the book progressed I found I really enjoyed Wexler's take on the Supreme Court decisions - why he agreed or disagreed. I especially liked his discussion of the senate chaplaincy and the pledge of allegiance.

  • Jengordon
    2019-05-18 08:40

    An entertaining read, though the blurb-writer who called it "side-splittingly funny" must've been high when he read it; it was occasionally droll, but had exactly one guffaw moment, and no laugh-out-louds.That said, Wexler does a nice job of explaining (his view of) some seminal First Amendment cases and the way the Supreme Court has given shifting guidance to the lower courts over time.

  • Guna
    2019-04-30 07:14

    If you are interested in the constitutional basis of many church/state laws, definitely read this book. Wexler is a professor of constitutional law, and writes very amusingly, but clearly, about this subject.

  • Jessie
    2019-05-16 11:44

    This book is funny, informative, funny, immensely readable, funny, and a solid and understandable exploration of church/state law. Oh, and did I say funny?(I work for the publisher. But it isn't in my job description to review our books, and I only review the ones I actually enjoy.)

  • Jason
    2019-05-12 12:15

    Not as funny as Assassination Vacation, a book that HH draws comparisons to, but Wexler is really smart, really opinionated, and really invested in getting people to understand church-state law better.

  • Lori Paximadis
    2019-05-10 14:31

    An interesting and insightful tour of some of the most important battlegrounds in the fight for separation of church and state. The author has a great sense of humor, but was also able to convey some of the key legal principles involved in each case in a way that was easy for a layperson to grasp.

  • John
    2019-05-23 07:18

    I read it more for the travel aspect, which worked out okay. Wexler managed to make the legal stuff fairly interesting, although I think one would need to approach the book with a legal background, or at least strong interest, to get the most of out the it.

  • Daniel DeLappe
    2019-05-08 09:18

    This was a good read. It is easier to understand if you know the basic case laws that he is speaking about. This is the only law book I have ever laughed out loud while reading. This Author is a great writer. Good pacing. A fun and education read.

  • Neige Blanche
    2019-04-27 08:15

    The most fun, entertaining and educational book I have ever read on Constitutional Law! There is nothing like learning and laughing at the same time to make it really stick.

  • Nick
    2019-05-03 10:15

    Full disclosure: I am mentioned in the acknowledgments.

  • Betsy Lightbourn
    2019-04-26 09:41

    An entertaining and memorable way of grappling with the issues of church-state separation.