Thackeray once stated that the two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, familiar things new. As America's endless culture wars fester, Prof. Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago Law School has published a powerful history of the constitutional battles over sexual expression, reproductive freedom, and sexual preference. It is a compelling book that masterfully melds together sex, religion, and law into a topical narrative that is readily accessible to both lay readers and lawyers.
Richly researched and a decade in the making, the book argues that Christian conservatives, long accustomed to imposing their beliefs on members of the body politic who do not share them, are no longer in a position to do so. Instead, they now seek protection to act in accord with their beliefs. "This," posits the author, "is a stunning and, indeed, historic, shift in our culture and in our law."
The backdrop of constitutional history typically begins in 17th-century England. To provide the proper context for a discussion of sex, religion, and law, however, the author travels back much further to explore what the pre-Christian world "thought about sex." In a sentence that would have made George Santayana proud, the author notes that "[w]e can understand the present only if we know how and why we got here and only if we understand that different cultures approach these questions quite differently."
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