I am delighted to announce that I will be writing a new book for Stanford University Press. It will be my first book with an academic press, and having graduated from Stanford Law and being a huge fan of the Stanford Tree (who plays an important role in my debut novel, by the way) I couldn’t be happier that it will be with Stanford U. Press.
The book is very tentatively titled, “Our Non-Christian Nation: How Atheists, Wiccans, Satanists, and Other Non-Christians are Demanding Their Rightful Place in American Public Life,” and if things all go well, it should be published sometime in 2018. Here is a little summary of the book that I wrote up when I tried to sell it:
OUR NON-CHRISTIAN NATION: HOW ATHEISTS, WICCANS, SATANISTS AND OTHER NON-CHRISTIANS ARE DEMANDING THEIR RIGHTFUL PLACE IN AMERICAN PUBLIC LIFE
A Wiccan family convinces the US government to allow a pentagram on their loved one’s grave in Arlington Cemetery. The Senate invites a Hindu to give the opening prayer before a session, but abortion protestors shout the priest down. In Utah, a religious group that believes in mummification goes to the Supreme Court seeking the right to put up their “Seven Aphorisms” monument next to a town’s Ten Commandments monument, but loses. An Islamic school causes an uproar in Louisiana when it seeks to participate in the state’s voucher program to receive public funds. And in Orange County, Florida, the school district suspends its policy allowing religious groups to distribute reading material when a Satanist group starts handing out a coloring book as an alternative to the materials being passed out by Christians.
In the past decade, the Supreme Court of the United States has etched out a new path in the area of church/state relations under the First Amendment. In a series of cases involving free speech in schools, religious displays, school vouchers, and legislative prayers, the Court has allowed religion an unprecedented right to access the public square. Almost all of these cases have, of course, involved attempts by Christian groups to spread their word. The Court, however, has never limited the right of access to public money, property, and institutions only to Christians, and has in fact, specifically said that other, minority religious groups should enjoy the same access as majority Christian ones.
In response to this new jurisprudence, many minority religious groups, as well as humanists and atheists, have attempted to take advantage of the Court’s invitation to participate in public life. As the examples described above suggest, sometimes they have succeeded, and sometimes they have failed. In his new book, law professor and author of three previous entertaining books about law Jay Wexler tells the story of the Court’s evolving case law in this area and the responses—both successful and not—of minority religious groups to increase their public presence. Wexler talks to leaders of these groups—from Satanists to Scientologists, from Hindus to Humanists—to learn why they seek a higher profile and how they have risen to the challenges of the Court’s new rulings, and he argues that in order to ensure a public square filled with all sorts of voices, these minority groups should continue their battle for access.
At stake is nothing less than the future of our national public life. With more and more Americans claiming allegiance to minority religions, both old and new, and an increasing number of people who embrace non-belief as an affirmative option to religion, the United States currently stands at a critical junction. The decisions that both religious groups and courts make now will shape the nature of the public square for years to come. Will public life continue to be dominated by Christian voices? If not, will it be because the Christian majority has decided that no voices are better than all voices, resulting in a public square empty of all religion? Or will it be because minority religious believers and nonbelievers have insisted on their right to participate in public life alongside the Christian majority, creating a public square filled with voices of every type and stripe? In OUR NON-CHRISTIAN NATION: HOW ATHEISTS, WICCANS, SATANISTS AND OTHER NON-CHRISTIANS ARE DEMANDING THEIR RIGHTFUL PLACE IN AMERICAN PUBLIC LIFE, Wexler argues that the latter option not only is more consistent with American ideals of freedom and inclusivity but would also better position us to effectively participate in an increasingly intertwined world.