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Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battlegrounds of the Church/State Wars

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  77 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
After ten years spent riddling over the intricacies of church/state law from the ivory tower, law professor Jay Wexler decided it was high time to hit the road to learn what really happened in some of the most controversial Supreme Court cases involving this hot-button issue. In Holy Hullabaloos, he takes us along for the ride, crossing the country to meet the people and v ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 1st 2009 by Beacon Press
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Feb 14, 2011 gaby rated it really liked it
Shelves: legal, nonfiction
Nearly five years after graduating from law school, I can say with a half-shamed confidence that I almost never read legally-related books off the clock. In fact, I had to create that very shelf on goodreads just to house my electronic musings about this book. What's wrong with me, you might wonder? Do I not enjoy my chosen profession? Am I really so disinterested in one of the most culturally relevant, intellectually nuanced and vibrant areas of scholarly discourse in this country? Not so. I th ...more
Apr 17, 2011 Holly rated it really liked it
Disclaimers: The author is one of my favorite law professors and I'm mentioned in the acknowledgments(!).

This was very entertaining and easy to read -- no knowledge of the law needed, just a general interest in the major church-state issues that the U.S. has grappled with. The explanations of these controversies, along with Wexler's travel stories, are so interesting and accessible that I wished he had left out his personal views on religion and politics because I think they risk turning off so
Evanston Public  Library
After ten years of teaching law and religion courses, Wexler decided he wanted to write a book that explained the complex and nuanced legal arguments involving the separation of church and state. And, he reasoned, what better way to do this than a road trip to the very hotspots where the battles took place? The result is a cross-country jaunt that's part travelogue, part law for the layperson, and part humorous anecdotes and impressions. In such chapters as "Hasidic Hullabaloo" (New York state), ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 05, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Wexler is a smart-aleck relapsed-Jewish atheist law professor, pretty much polar opposite in spiritual and political views to my fundamentalist Protestant conservative views. But he's also a funny and insightful writer. If he had written the law books I had to research during my coursework on legal research for my Master of Library Science degree program, I might have taken up my father on his offer to pay for me to get my law degree. Instead I had to research other dry-as-dust law books, so our ...more
Jun 13, 2010 Lisa rated it it was amazing
My favorite thing about the book--aside from its extreme readability--is that, unlike the last _four_ church-state books I read, this author acknowledges the experience and significance of Native Americans in church-state issues in more than a cursory, "let me swiftly mention that one obligatory peyote case" kind of way. Granted, Wexler does go over the peyote case (Employment Division v. Smith) quite swiftly, but he also mentions the Lyng & Blackhawk cases, and states in the introduction th ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Kurt rated it really liked it
This funny little book is a great overview of contemporary issues in church-state law. Wexler is clear about his biases as a law professor who was raised Jewish, admired some Eastern religions while in college, but has ultimately settled quite comfortably into an atheist life. In this book, he identifies a variety of concerns, from school vouchers to the Senate chaplain to prayer before football games, and each chapter weaves a brief travelogue into his academic discussion of the topics. I didn' ...more
Jj Burch
Aug 14, 2013 Jj Burch rated it it was amazing
Another fabulous gem found from a local "Little Free Library." No idea what I was getting into but found myself laughing out loud throughout. The author is hilarious, and knows his stuff. If you're interested in law, religion, and where they should and should not intersect, I highly recommend. I guess even if you're not that into these topics, I found his voice to be very engaging and relatable. He makes constitutional law understandable and interesting. He also doesn't disguise the fact that he ...more
Nov 25, 2012 Matthew rated it really liked it
I find that my view of religion in America is very close to Wexler's, but that's not why I liked the book. I found it to be interesting, funny and informative and it was enough of these things to appeal to both a lawyer and a non-lawyer (which isn't easy). Some may find Wexler's attitude towards religion to be somewhat offensively dismissive, but I suppose my response to that is that you should probably get that hint from the title of the book. Moreover, I think he recognizes he is dismissive, b ...more
Jun 17, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it
Interesting, entertaining, and informative. I didn't know about many of the cases Wexler used for his road trip, so I learned some new things. He delves deeply into these cases, laying out details and providing information and different sides of the story that I'd never thought about. These cases aren't as black-and-white as they seem on the surface. Wexler's style of writing is entertaining, but his overarching attitude is annoying. He assumes his reader has a deep knowledge of every Supreme Co ...more
L (Sniffly Kitty)
Sep 02, 2009 L (Sniffly Kitty) rated it really liked it
This book takes complex court cases involving religions vs the state and breaks them down into something easy to understand. Along the way, the author is quite amusing. I find him amusing probably because religiously, I am the same alignment as the author. I imagine many of those who are far "right" in their religious views will not be as amused as I was.

This book is definitely a great overview to the many court (read Supreme Court usually) cases which shape our nation's policies toward the sepa
Apr 26, 2011 Maria rated it really liked it
This was a fun book. Jay is self-deprecatingly witty and interesting. It didn't go into a lot of detail on each case, but it was a good general overview of church/state separation legal issues and cases. I especially enjoyed the author's conclusion at the end of the book that many of the people he met, while they were quirky and many held beliefs that he rejected, he couldn't just dismiss them as a New Atheist would. The world is made richer by the variety of religious thoughts and thinkers, but ...more
Feb 20, 2014 Claire rated it did not like it
WHY DOES THIS BOOK NOT HAVE AN INDEX? It ate up so much of my time when I was interested in Taoism, Buddhism, and Islam, which took until close to the end to appear.

I mean, it might not be a scholarly book, but SERIOUSLY. I don't have the most time on the planet. It was mildly soothing to find this person is a Boston University professor who studied at Stanford, UChicago, Berkeley, Harvard, and some east-Asian schools, but it was SO informal I wouldn't believe it.

So, I was able to find the infor
Jan 19, 2010 Kim rated it really liked it
Fun reading! Great mix of legal theory, opinion about the First Amendment, travelogue, and humor, in David Sedaris style. Entertaining but informative as well, about the dimensions of the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses and how they have played out in the Supreme Court in the last few decades. Lay and legal audiences both would love this book. I'd have given it 5 stars but the last chapters were a bit forgettable.
Jul 26, 2010 Liz rated it really liked it
Apparently the third time's a charm. I FINALLY finished this book. This was an informative and funny book about the separation of church and state. The author presented many cases and religions, and for the most part, did so with respect. I felt that the author didn't need to talk about being an atheist so much. It was pretty clear that he was one and I have no problem with that but it was mentioned a lot, I thought that was a little weird for some reason.
May 22, 2012 Mitchell rated it it was amazing
I great fast non-fiction romp through US law around separation of church and state. Very informative but very informal. And by the end the author had gone a little to loose with his writing and a little too snarky in his attitude - so only a 4.5 out of 5. But it was interesting seeing a constitutional law professor who is also a lapsed jew (atheists) view on what the Supreme Court did and whether it got it right and why.
Paul Heidebrecht
Sep 03, 2009 Paul Heidebrecht rated it it was amazing
Nothing quite like it--constitutional law comedy travelogue. Wexler is very funny, sarcastic, witty, yet extremely insightful. He's an atheist with a lot of respect for religion, but not most Christian people. If you are one of the latter, be prepared for a beating. If you want a closer look at some of the landmark Court cases on religion, this is a great read.
Nov 08, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
I am giving this book four stars based only on a cursory overview of the book. I simply can't do a heavy read right now, and even though Wexler's book is rather humorous in many spots, constitutional battles over church and state are not something I wish to tackle at the moment, so off to the Friends of the Library this one goes.
Robyn Franke
Sep 20, 2011 Robyn Franke rated it really liked it
At first I found the book a little pedantic - I did think that some of the explanations of the law were that difficult that they needed restating three or four times - but as the book progressed I found I really enjoyed Wexler's take on the Supreme Court decisions - why he agreed or disagreed. I especially liked his discussion of the senate chaplaincy and the pledge of allegiance.
May 19, 2014 Jengordon rated it really liked it
An entertaining read, though the blurb-writer who called it "side-splittingly funny" must've been high when he read it; it was occasionally droll, but had exactly one guffaw moment, and no laugh-out-louds.

That said, Wexler does a nice job of explaining (his view of) some seminal First Amendment cases and the way the Supreme Court has given shifting guidance to the lower courts over time.
Jan 03, 2012 Guna rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, non-fiction
If you are interested in the constitutional basis of many church/state laws, definitely read this book. Wexler is a professor of constitutional law, and writes very amusingly, but clearly, about this subject.
Jul 01, 2009 Jessie rated it it was amazing
This book is funny, informative, funny, immensely readable, funny, and a solid and understandable exploration of church/state law. Oh, and did I say funny?

(I work for the publisher. But it isn't in my job description to review our books, and I only review the ones I actually enjoy.)

Oct 16, 2009 Jason rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Not as funny as Assassination Vacation, a book that HH draws comparisons to, but Wexler is really smart, really opinionated, and really invested in getting people to understand church-state law better.
Lori Paximadis
Aug 11, 2009 Lori Paximadis rated it really liked it
An interesting and insightful tour of some of the most important battlegrounds in the fight for separation of church and state. The author has a great sense of humor, but was also able to convey some of the key legal principles involved in each case in a way that was easy for a layperson to grasp.
Nov 12, 2009 John rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, library_books
I read it more for the travel aspect, which worked out okay. Wexler managed to make the legal stuff fairly interesting, although I think one would need to approach the book with a legal background, or at least strong interest, to get the most of out the it.
Daniel DeLappe
Jul 25, 2010 Daniel DeLappe rated it liked it
This was a good read. It is easier to understand if you know the basic case laws that he is speaking about. This is the only law book I have ever laughed out loud while reading. This Author is a great writer. Good pacing. A fun and education read.
Neige Blanche
Jun 10, 2014 Neige Blanche rated it it was amazing
The most fun, entertaining and educational book I have ever read on Constitutional Law! There is nothing like learning and laughing at the same time to make it really stick.
Sep 26, 2009 Nick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Full disclosure: I am mentioned in the acknowledgments.
Betsy Lightbourn
Jul 05, 2013 Betsy Lightbourn rated it it was amazing
An entertaining and memorable way of grappling with the issues of church-state separation.
Kristin rated it it was amazing
Oct 25, 2011
Daniel Wilson
Daniel Wilson rated it really liked it
Jul 24, 2011
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Jay Wexler teaches at the Boston University School of Law. He studied religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School and law at Stanford, and worked as a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He has published numerous academic articles, and reviews, as well as over three dozen short stories and humor pieces in outlets such as The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Mental Flos ...more
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