This book is concerned with two decades 1970-1990 of adjudications by the lower federal courts -- district and circuit courts of appeals and the US Supreme Court -- in 'religious freedoms' cases, or cases which relate to the First Amendment's 'free-exercise' and 'establishment' clauses. There are a number of reasons for dealing with these two clauses simultaneously. The first is pragmatic: most judicial decisions which deal with religious liberties discuss both clauses. Second, from a more theoretical perspective, the free exercise and establishment clauses share a common purpose, namely protecting the liberties of religious individuals and the non-religious. Finally, it is based upon an underlying scepticism about the importance of rules, and even the existence of rules, concepts which have emerged in the public law area and among legal realists. One of the major research objectives of this study is to test, in the context of religious liberty cases (or cases which involve the free exercise or establishment clauses), cases which involve major issues, the various predictions of the general theory of public law.
In an effort to further understand politically activist judges, the analysis will also evaluate whether the activists are more likely than the non-activists to render decisions which favour interest groups, are responsive to judicial constituents, and are highly partisan. In addition to improving the political analysis of court cases, this book also examines other facets of the judicial environment which may also help to understand decisions in cases involving religious liberties. The dependent variable in all cases is whether the judicial decision is one which is pro-religion. The additional factors which will be included relate to arguably relevant factors relating to the judges including: their religious affiliations (or lack of religious belief), their ages, and their gender. Sample cases drawn from the district courts will help to introduce the data set employed in this book of religious freedoms cases.
Barbara M Yarnold