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Armed with the Constitution: Jehovah's Witnesses in Alabama and the U.S. Supreme Court, 1939-1946

Armed with the Constitution: Jehovah's Witnesses in Alabama and the U.S. Supreme Court, 1939-1946

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  • ISBN-13: 9780817307363
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Release Date: Feb 01, 1995
  • Pages: 221 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.27 x 0.86 x 9.33 inches


The contribution of Jehovah's Witnesses in expanding the meaning of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, both in substance and in federal application, has not been fully explored. Not only did the Witnesses prick the conscience of the nation, they also prodded the judiciary to reinforce and define the Amendment's guarantees. Constitutional historians have recognized that the zealous minority conducted a national campaign seeking legal recognition of the right to practice its particular religion but generally have confined their attention to surveys. This book seeks to acknowledge the Witness contribution in an in-depth study of two key U.S. Supreme Court decisions born of the Witness struggle in Alabama between 1939 and 1946, Jones v. Opelika and Marsh v. Alabama. Using contemporary periodicals and legal journals; Witnesses' memoirs, letters, and interviews; works published by the Witness parent organization; and scholarly studies of the Witnesses, Newton places the cases in legal context by examining extensive court records and relevant papers as well as the biographical backgrounds of the judges involved in the decisions. But the book is more than a legal study; it is also a dramatic history of two powerful personalities, Rosco Jones and Grace Marsh, whose total commitment to their faith enabled them to carry the Jehovah's Witnesses' battle from rural Alabama to the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court. It portrays the courage and strength of two "ordinary" people, one black and one white, whose dedicated struggle not only challenged the white male power structure in Alabama but also helped to influence the U.S. Supreme Court in protecting individual liberty and ultimately inenhancing the First Amendment rights of all Americans.

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