How do we understand the nuances of efforts by Christian conservatives to affect American law – and evaluate their success? What lessons do they hold for other social movements? Dr. Amanda Hollis-Brusky, associate professor of politics at Pomona College and Dr. Joshua C. Wilson, professor of Political Science at the University of Denver join the podcast to discuss Separate But Faithful: The Christian Right's Radical Struggle to Transform Law and Legal Culture (Oxford UP, 2020)
The book evaluates whether activists pushing for lawyers and judges with a Christian Worldview have been able to achieve their goals and transform American legal culture. This impressive book contributes to our general understanding of social movements, legal mobilization, and constitutional development – but also the specifics of how the Christian Conservative Legal Movement (CCLM) has attempted to transform American law from secular and liberal to Christian and natural. While many people know of The Federalist Society’s attempts to influence scholarship, they may be less familiar with the push to create separate law schools and legal institutions that teach from a Christian worldview such as Regent University Law School, Liberty University Law School, and Ave Maria School of Law. This thoughtfully written and well-researched book uses a modified version of Support Structure Theory and extensive data collected by the authors to interrogate why the New Christian Right rejected the lower-cost, lower risk infiltration approach to support structure building in favor of “a mix of parallel alternative and supplemental approaches.” The book includes a helpful model (the Support Structure Pyramid) for conceptualizing litigation-based movement support structures, institutions, and their relationship to legal change. The podcast includes a conversation about the evolution of that particular conception (and what the authors might change). Their analysis of different forms of capital (human, social, cultural, and intellectual) allows Hollis-Brusky and Wilson to assess the actual and potential capital outputs of each institution and the extent to which the Christian Conservative Legal Movement achieved their goals. The Christian Right has struggled to influence the legal and political mainstream but it has succeeded in creating a space of resistance to unify and connect those who seek to challenge “a dominant legal culture” seen as “incorrigibly liberal.” In the podcast, the authors discuss how they brought together Hollis-Brusky’s scholarship on the Federalist Society (Ideas With Consequences: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Oxford, 2019) and Wilson’s earlier research on The Street Politics of Abortion: Speech, Violence, and American’s Culture Wars (Stanford, 2013) to create this nuanced, collaborative book.Susan Liebell is an associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Why Diehard Originalists Aren’t Really Originalists recently appeared in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage and “Retreat from the Rule of Law: Locke and the Perils of Stand Your Ground” was published in the Journal of Politics (July 2020). Email her comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @SusanLiebell.
Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.