LAW & CRIME

Deep Conviction: True Stories of Ordinary Americans Fighting for the Freedom To Live Their Beliefs

Shadow Mountain. Jun. 2019. 352p. ISBN 9781629725536. $24.99. LAW
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Collis (law, Univ. of Denver) selects four very different case studies from American history to illustrate the challenges of protecting religious freedom. The author begins in 1812 with a Catholic priest in New York who is asked to reveal information from a private confession. In 1959, an atheist in Maryland won a legal battle to become a notary without having to declare a belief in God. A more complex case was heard in 1990 involving a member of the Klamath tribe and his appeal to freely practice his beliefs (Oregon v. Smith). The Supreme Court held that the state could prohibit certain religious practices as long as it wasn’t targeting any specific religion. The final case outlined is the recent and highly publicized Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Court, in a 7–2 vote, decided that the Commission’s hostility to religion invalidated the lower court’s ruling. Collis is an effective storyteller, despite frequent flourishes and embellishments in his narrative, which benefits from extensive research and generous use of court transcripts and interviews.
VERDICT Readers interested in religious liberty will find this work to be an accessible exploration of a much-disputed area of constitutional law.

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