Suggested reading from Chicago Review Press
304 Pages, 6 x 9
Formats: Cloth, EPUB, Mobipocket, PDF
Cloth, $27.99 (US $27.99) (CA $33.99)
Chicago Review Press (Apr 2016)
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OverviewTwenty years ago, in the middle of the night and on the last day of the legislative session, the New York State Legislature created a publicly funded school district to cater to the interests of a religious sect called the Satmar, an insular group of Hasidic Jews that objects to, among other things, female school bus drivers. The rapidly growing sect had bought land in rural Upstate New York, populated it solely with members of its faction, and created a village called Kiryas Joel that exerted extraordinary political pressure over both political parties. Marking the first time in American history that a governmental unit was established for a religious group, the legislature's action prompted years of litigation that eventually went to the US Supreme Court.As today's Supreme Court signals its willingness to view a religious viewpoint like any other speech and accord it equal protection, the 1994 case, Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, stands as the most important legal precedent in the fight to uphold the separation of church and state. In The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel, plaintiff Louis Grumet opens a window onto the Satmar Hasidic community, where language, customs, and dress have led to estrangement from and clashes with neighboring communities, and details the inside story of his fight for the First Amendment and against New York's most powerful politicians.Informed by numerous interviews with key figures such as Governor George Pataki, media accounts, court transcripts, and more, The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel not only tantalizes with a peek at cynical power politics driven by votes and Supreme Court justice squabbling and negotiation; it also provides an important demonstration of how a small, insular, and politically savvy religious group can grasp legal and political power. This story—a blend of politics, religion, cultural clashes, and constitutional tension—is an object lesson in the ongoing debate over freedom of versus freedom from religion.
Reviews"The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel highlights the First Amendment's two, mutually reinforcing, religion clauses—the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause—and demonstrates the importance of both preserving religious liberty as well as freedom of conscience and equality for all of us, believers and non-believers alike. Lou Grumet exhibited great courage when he stood up for principle by persistently fighting against the most powerful politicians in New York State and for the First Amendment, all the way to the US Supreme Court. This book tells a fascinating story about why this struggle was so important for not only all freedom-loving individuals, but also our public school system, which plays such a key role in our democracy." —Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law at New York Law School and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union