God on Trial: Dispatches from America's Religious Battlefields

Peter Irons

Viking Penguin, 2007

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

An insightful and dramatic account of religious conflicts that keep America divided—from the acclaimed author of The Courage of Their Convictions 

As the United States has become increasingly conservative, both politically and socially, in recent years, the fight between the religious right and those advocating for the separation of church and state has only intensified. As he did in The Courage of Their Convictions, award-winning author and legal expert Peter Irons combines an approachable, journalistic narrative style with intimate first-person accounts from both sides of the conflict. Set against the backdrop of American history, politics, and law, God on Trial relates the stories of six recent cases in communities that have become battlefields in America's growing religious wars.

“In this compelling study, Irons…presents five distinct court cases that have divided communities in America’s growing religious wars…. Irons also skillfully lays the historical foundation of religious freedom in the founding of America, the 1947 Establishment Clause ruling, and political and social factors in America’s religious wars. As each case unfolds, the reader is able to celebrate the willingness of ordinary citizens to take a stand for their beliefs and the nation’s judicial process. Recommended for most collections.”
Library Journal

“Irons provides exciting blow-by-blow accounts of the legal battles…in seven cases concerning the separation of church and state. Irons’s seven cases clarify the legal issues in these important cases [and] reveal sometimes with surprising power, the personalities and the motivations of the opponents.”
Publishers Weekly

“Peter Irons has done a remarkable job of scrutinizing five important religious liberty cases. As always, his legal acumen is impeccable. Some allege that America’s culture war that began in the 1960’s is winding down. Irons reminds us that it is not; but also offers people on both sides a compelling opportunity to get inside the minds of their adversaries and, to the surprise of many, find principles and righteous passion there.”
Barry Lynn, Executive Director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

“Finally, a book on the struggle for religious freedom that goes beyond the hype and the headlines. Peter Irons has gone where no other author has gone before. By focusing on the real issues, the real people that are impacted by the decisions and the real lawyers who actually litigated the cases, Irons has provided a tremendous resource for all of us. This is a must read book.”
Jay Kekulow, Chief Counsel, American Center for Law & Justice

“Peter Irons is that rare legal scholar who, with impeccable clarity, translates the most important constitutional issues of our time into human terms. In this book he takes that talent into the fierce conflicts surrounding the public use of religious symbols, telling the stories of the people involved, on both sides of the controversy.”
Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States

“Peter Irons has once again demonstrated his unmatched skill at putting a human face on the Constitution. Americans on both sides of the ‘wall of separation’ between church and state will learn much from the accounts of recent battles over religion in this fascinating and fair-minded book.”
Nadine Strossen, President, American Civil Liberties Union and Professor, New York Law School

“Over the past two decades, the United States has fallen into an often bitterly divisive struggle over the separation of church and state. In God on Trial, Peter Irons offers a lively, insightful, and compelling account of five of these battles. Americans on both sides of this struggle will learn from this account.”
Geoffrey R. Stone, the Hary Kalven, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School

“This remarkable book goes behind the scenes to examine the issues, the passions, and the characters behind recent skirmishes over the relationship of religion and politics in America. With his deft characterizations, his legal savvy, and his historical knowledge, Peter Irons brings the issues to life. God On Trial provides a rare look into the passions that animate both sides – all sides – of these important and continuing debates over the meaning of the First Amendment in American life.”
Randall Balmer, Professor of American Religious History, Barnard College, Columbia University