A thorough, magisterial account of a timely and historically important legal debate.



A writer offers an analysis of government bans on religious attire worn by public school teachers. 

As Walker (Cultivating Empathy, 2016, etc.) observes, the perennial contest between political secularism and religious liberty is hardly new, but it seems to have hit a fevered pitch not just in the United States, but in Europe as well. The author astutely unpacks one controversial issue at the heart of that tension: the permissibility of a state to ban public school teachers from donning religious garb while they work. The focus of the author’s study is a landmark statutory law passed in the late 19th century that did precisely that (“The first such ban of religious garb was instituted in Pennsylvania in 1894 and was clearly directed toward Catholic nuns teaching in the public schools”). This law remains the only one of its kind unsuccessfully challenged in the U.S. Walker applies a five-step analytical process to the law—“scaffolding” the work—that begins with a “synthesized” battery of judicial tests organized around just cause. Additionally, he provides a searching account of the “quasquicentennial-old debate in the United States,” including a masterfully meticulous treatment of the relevant law and literature, the factual context, and a concluding legal analysis. The legal assessment focuses on the extent to which the Pennsylvania law potentially contradicts both the establishment of religion and the free exercise clauses of the First Amendment. The author finally concludes that the law is fundamentally indefensible on both counts. Among other reasons, it coercively “suppresses the religious identities of public servants” and favors some faiths over others. Walker’s credentials are unimpeachable: He’s the executive director of 1791 Delegates, a group of constitutional and human rights specialists. His command of the germane material—legal, historical, and even philosophical—is simply extraordinary. More than a legal argument, the book is a sweeping account of the nature of public education within a liberal democracy—its proper purposes and limitations. He also sensibly considers the broader international context, especially cases that have come before the European Court of Human Rights. The author’s argument is a complex one, but it’s written in the kind of accessible, jargon-free prose that should be digestible for even the layperson. 

A thorough, magisterial account of a timely and historically important legal debate.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-367-18830-6

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Routledge

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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