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Crossing the Line Between Church and State

LAW’s Jay Wexler reads from his new book tonight


The Founding Fathers separated church and state, creating a bedrock democratic principle. But did they expect their efforts to become fodder for quirky insights and one-liners?

Probably not, but that hasn’t stopped Jay Wexler. The Boston University law professor’s new book, Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battlegrounds of the Church/State Wars, offers humorous, idiosyncratic vignettes from his journey to unusual places around the nation that were the settings for some of the most important legal cases to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. He’ll be reading from its pages at Brookline Booksmith tonight.

Wexler has plenty of cred in the field, having worked at the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel and clerked for Judge David Tatel at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Supreme Court. He’s been teaching law and religion at the School of Law since 2001.

In fall 2007, Wexler spent six months meandering around the country, visiting locations of notable battles in the war of separation of church and state. From an Amish farm in Wisconsin to an East Texas football game to a Santería religious ceremony in Florida, he found the real people and places behind Supreme Court rulings about the role of religion in our society. Holy Hullabaloos is the story of his journey; he uses self-deprecating humor as disarming counterpoint to in-depth analysis of some of the most heated arguments in American legal history.

Holy Hullabaloos (Beacon Press) came out this month and is pulling in kudos and comments. Booklist calls it “an entertaining ramble that is also thoughtful, even enlightening.” ForeWord magazine uses the adjectives “irreverent, obnoxious, arrogant, silly, and probing.” Wexler responds, “Probing? Yes.”

In addition to what he calls his “more serious academic work,” Wexler has written several short stories and a script for a sitcom about death row, available on his Web site.

Wexler’s free reading begins at 7 p.m. at Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St., Brookline; take the Green Line C train to the Coolidge Corner stop. More information about Holy Hullabaloos and excerpts read by the author are available here.

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