Priests of Our Democracy tells of the teachers and professors who battled the anti-communist witch hunt of the 1950s. It traces the political fortunes of academic freedom beginning in the late 19th century, both on campus and in the courts. Combining political and legal history with wrenching personal stories, the book details how the anti-communist excesses of the 1950s inspired the Supreme Court to recognize the vital role of teachers and professors in American democracy. The crushing of dissent in the 1950s impoverished political discourse in ways that are still being felt, and First Amendment academic freedom, a product of that period, is in peril today. In compelling terms, this book shows why the issue should matter to everyone.
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Marjorie Heins is a civil liberties lawyer, writer, and teacher, and the founding director of the Free Expression Policy Project. Her previous book, Not in Front of the Children, won the American Library Association’s 2002 Eli Oboler Award for best published work in the field of intellectual freedom. Other books include Sex, Sin, and Blasphemy: A Guide to America's Censorship Wars; Cutting the Mustard: Affirmative Action and the Nature of Excellence; and Strictly Ghetto Property: The Story of Los Siete de la Raza. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School.Review:
"With clarity and insight Marjorie Heins brings to life a part of American history often overlooked despite its importance to our democracy today. The tension between individual freedom and national security is as taut as it ever has been. We have much to learn from our earlier mistakes in yielding too readily to claims of the latter. This compelling book, which brilliantly illuminates earlier Supreme Court decisions, and the people and events behind them, is a wonderful place to begin."-Margaret H. Marshall,former Chief Justice, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
"Marjorie Heins, a civil liberties lawyer and founder of the Free Expression Policy Project, tracks the collision of politics, academic freedom, free speech, and the Constitution in this dense, well-researched study . . . . This compelling study demonstrates that precedent does not guarantee indefinite protection, and every generation must fight for its freedoms."-Publishers Weekly
"Marjorie Heins has given a human face to leading American controversies and cases about academic freedom, creatively integrating personal interviews and archival sources into her account of the developing law."-David Rabban,University Distinguished Teaching Professor, University of Texas School of Law
"Priests of Our Democracy is a smart, well-crafted insightful book by an especially qualified author."-Michael Steven Smith,Against the Current
"Heins is a cautious analyst... she concludes her valuable study detailing how, over the last half-century, academic freedom continues to be challenged by local officials... Priests of Our Democracy... serve[s] as a reminder that Americans can't take First Amendment rights for granted."-The Brooklyn Rail
“A fascinating read. Heins creatively blends social and legal history to show how the right to academic freedom was forged out of the struggles and passions of America’s worst days of political repression, and why academic freedom is more important than ever today.”-Nadine Strossen,former president, American Civil Liberties Union; professor, New York Law School
"A New York City girl, born and bred, Marjorie Heins provides infectious insight into the major battles waged between New York City teachers and the city government."-American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
"Combining the legal insights of a constitutional scholar with the archival diligence of an historian, Marjorie Heins has written the definitive study of the Supreme Court’s most important academic freedom decision. It’s an engrossing account of the assault on educators during the McCarthy era that should be required reading for anyone who values our increasingly endangered First Amendment rights."-Ellen Schrecker,Professor of History, Yeshiva University
"Marjorie Heins, a civil liberties lawyer, casts a gimlet eye on New York schools in the early 1950s, when teachers were fired merely for refusing to say whether they were communists . . . . Of course, some teachers were actually communists (and not all priests are perfect). But Ms. Heins's point, which she places in historical and contemporary context, is that 'the American political system is all too vulnerable to political repression and to demonizing the dissenter.' She makes a powerful case."-Sam Roberts,The New York Times
"In this insightful and illuminating history of academic freedom and the Constitution, Marjorie Heins brings to life the characters, controversies, and cases that have framed the evolution of this critical and contentious realm of American liberty."-Geoffrey R. Stone,Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago
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