UC Law Journal


Religion is subject to both formal and informal constraints in its involvement in the political process.

The formal constraint is the Establishment Clause. It limits the extent to which religion may be benefitted or endorsed by government action. The informal constraint is the rhetorical objection that is often raised against religion when it attempts to enter the political arena and involve itself in public decisionmaking. Whether these constraints are warranted is currently a matter of significant political and academic debate.

In his Essay, Professor Marshall argues that the constraints placed upon religion are justified. Relying on Fyodor Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor for illustration and on social science literature for theoretical support, Professor Marshall maintains that there is a potential volatility in the dynamic of the relationship between religion and the religious believer that often leads to persecution and sectarian strife. He then argues that the special constraints placed upon religion have been effective in inhibiting this volatility both by placing an external limitation on religion's involvement in politics and by internalizing in the mind of the believer the principle that religion is not a proper source, or subject, of political action.

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