BOOK REVIEW: American Crusade: How the Supreme Court Is Weaponizing Religious Freedom By Andrew Seidel

Review by William Gautreaux, November 2022

In his excellent new book, Andrew Seidel reviews some of the most important Supreme Court cases of the last 30 years that justices have used to hand down decisions involving religion. He discusses in detail how “religious freedom” has been turned into a weapon to advance Christian religious privilege, and not religious freedom, and to impose the Christian religion on others.

Seidel points out how “the Constitution envisioned religious freedom as a protection for minorities, not a weapon to maintain privilege.” He highlights the most important cases to show how our society has become more and more diverse, while the pushback from the Supreme Court is to reassert Christian privilege and alleged superiority.  In case after case, Supreme Court justices have used “hostility toward Christians” to rule in favor of Christians and to maintain their privilege. Justices often totally ignore hostility towards non-Christians and Christians who interpret the bible differently.

Seidel discusses in depth these major cases:  the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (a bakery denying to make a wedding cake for a gay couple), the Trump v. Hawaii (the anti-Muslim travel ban case), American Legion v. American Humanist Association (a group can keep a 40-foot-tall Christian cross on government land), and Tandon v. Newsom (a bible group can be exempted from covid restrictions).

To take one example, in cases involving vouchers (the use of taxpayer money to fund Christian schools), the Supreme Court has often transformed these voucher cases from funding Christianity into hostility towards Christianity. These cases don’t really have solid reasoning to rule against taking public money to fund Christian schools, but it is easier to use the “But they’re being mean to Christians” defense. 

Seidel quotes Martin R. Castro, Chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights, who said in September 2016, “The phrases “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance.”

This is exactly what Christians bringing cases to the Supreme Court want — a validation and exemption of their religion-validated bigotry.

Seidel states that the next few decades are not looking positive for this current Supreme Court to rule in favor of non-Christians. Over 89% of cases in the past few decades have been ruled in favor of Christians. The current Supreme Court seems to have a penchant for choosing more cases involving religion. We should expect to see more religion cases brought to the Supreme Court.