RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND CONSCIENCE: A Constitutional Inquiry by Milton R. Konvitz


Email this review


In Expanding Liberties (1966) Konvitz argued that broader interpretation of the Constitution was increasing the scope of civil liberties. He makes much the same point here with regard to First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom. Konvitz, a professor of law and industrial and labor relations at Cornell University, uses the legal history to show that protections originally applied only to ""whatever satisfied Protestant wants and expectations,"" then to all ""institutionalized"" religions, and now, timorously, to instances of ""private conscience."" In the United States vs. Seeger (1965), for example, the Supreme Court found for three conscientious objectors who did not belong to recognized faiths--a victory for the ""radically pluralistic"" covenant Konvitz sees coming to America. On the other hand, the judicial record has been scattered--whereas the Native American Church was allowed to use peyote in its rites. Timothy Leary, a professed Hindu, was not--and Konvitz nowhere implies that the millenium has come. He does, however, describe developments and outline the questions raised by the ""endless expansion and inclusion"" that he sees occurring. He attempts to do what the Constitution neglects--to define the words ""religion"" and ""religious"" and to consider their applicability to ""nontheistic, humanistic, secularistic, and atheistic religions."" It's a large subject for a little book, but Konvitz manages to supply provocative analyses, though sometimes his documentation of court argument is tortuously turned.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1968
Publisher: Viking