In Sex in the Constitution, Geoffrey Stone—formerly dean of the University of Chicago’s law school—explains how the American legal system dealt with attempts to regulate sexual relations from colonial times until the present day, giving particular attention to the ways legislation regarding sex ran up against the religious freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Andrew Koppelman finds the book “a remarkably clear articulation of a very common [but] crude view of the appropriate relation between politics and religion”:
Stone thinks that the controversies over legal regulation of sexuality were, at their core, religious. . . . The struggle is one between good secularism and bad religion. . . . The struggle is not only about sexual freedom. It is also about containing the dangerous power of religion. . . . [T]he book reads like an indictment of the dangerous and tyrannical impulses of religious dogma. Yet the religious are not the bad guys in the story of modern sexual liberation. . . .
[For instance], Stone emphasizes the [Constitution’s] framers who sought to contain religion for rationalistic reasons. But American disestablishment was equally the creation of dissenting Protestants who thought that state support tended to corrupt the true faith. Religious fanatics like John Milton and Roger Williams advocated disestablishment a century before the Enlightenment. The Christians’ indispensable role in disestablishment presents a problem for Stone’s vision of a politics purged of religious influence. . . .
[But the more important question is this:] how bad is it if a law’s supporters are religious? Stone notes that when Californians voted against same-sex marriage in 2008, “the voting patterns made crystal clear” that the law was “a successful effort by persons holding a specific religious belief to use the authority of the law to impose their belief on their fellow citizens.” . . . The argument implies that the support of religious people is a kind of constitutional poison, contaminating and invalidating otherwise legitimate statutes. Of what use then is their right to vote?
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