Religion and the Law in America

An Encyclopedia of Personal Belief and Public Policy

by Scott A. Merriman


Does freedom of religion include freedom from religion? Where exactly did the founding fathers intend to draw the line between church and state when they wrote the First Amendment? Despite more than two centuries of debate and over 300 Supreme Court decisions, we have never arrived at satisfactory answers to these questions.

Print Flyer
Cover image for Religion and the Law in America

May 2007


Pages 722
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics Religion/Politics

This work is a comprehensive survey of one of the oldest—and hottest—debates in American history: the role of religion in the public discourse.

The relationship between church and state was contentious long before the framers of the Constitution undertook the bold experiment of separating the two, sparking a debate that would rage for centuries: What is the role of religion in government—and vice versa?

Religion and the Law in America explores the many facets of this question, from prayer in public schools to the addition of the phrase "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance, from government investigation of religious fringe groups to federal grants for faith-based providers of social services. In more than 250 A–Z entries, along with a series of broad, thematic essays, it examines the groups, laws, and court cases that have framed this ongoing debate. Through its careful, balanced exploration of the interaction between government and religion throughout the history of the United States, the work provides all Americans—students, scholars, and lay readers alike—with a deep understanding of one of the central, enduring issues in our history.


  • 250 A–Z entries analyze specific court cases or offer short, topical surveys of specific areas
  • Bibliographies follow each entry, indicating direction for further investigation
  • Thematic essays analyze such controversial topics as the establishment clause, the teaching of creationism and evolution, and the refusal of medical care
  • A chronology traces the development of attitudes toward the issue and changes in the relationship between church and state


  • Analyzes numerous legal cases and specific controversies across the broad area of religion and the law
  • Surveys both religious and political activism, pointing out similarities as well as differences, and how they have inspired opposing points of view
  • Describes key players as well as key episodes in history
  • Draws from the disciplines of history and religious studies to provide an evenhanded presentation of a highly controversial issue
Author Info

Scott A. Merriman, Ph.D., is a part-time instructor of history at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Maryland University College in Adelphi, MD. Dr. Merriman has written or edited several books including The History Highway: A 21st Century Guide to Internet Resources and Essays on Teaching with Technology.



"recommended for public and school libraries and is strongly recommended for church and seminary libraries."Library Journal

"highly recommended for all undergraduate libraries and large public libraries serving the interested general reader and researcher."Reference & User Services Quarterly

"The collection of court cases discussed, the subsequent discussion, and extensive cross-referencing after each entry make this a valuable reference work, eminently suitable for all libraries and all levels."ARBA

Look Inside

Other Titles of Interest

Church and State in America: A Bibliographical Guide cover imageChurch and State in America cover imageReligion and the State cover image
Encyclopedia of Sacred Places, 2nd Edition cover imageEncyclopedia of Religious Revivals in America cover imageAmerican Religions cover image

Product Search

Product Search

Publication Year



Need Help? Try our Search Tips