Solid If Brief History Marred By No True Scotsmen. This is a seemingly comprehensive – more comprehensive than any other I’ve ever read, and I’ve read many – yet brief (around 100 pages, including all non-narrative book material such as table of contents and bibliography) look at the issue. It even manages to include several historical facts of which I was hitherto unaware. Which is not overly easy to do, given that I’ve been speaking on this exact issue, from both sides at varying times, in depth off and on for over 20 years now. HOWEVER, particularly in its later chapters when it begins to get into more modern times – the last 40-50 years or so -, Balmer allows a tinge of “No True Scotsman” to invade his narrative. Even though I largely concur with these particular points, that the Baptists of the modern era – particularly the Southern Baptist Convention post “Conservative Resurgence” – have lost much of what it historically meant to be a Baptist (*even in the SBC itself!*), it taints what is otherwise a largely strictly fact based discussion of the history of the separation of Church and State in the land now known as the United States of America. Still, I don’t find it quite significant enough to downgrade the overall rating a full 20% that the loss of one of five stars would denote (though if I were grading on a typical A-F scale, I would probably drop this into B+ territory over the issue). Very much recommended.
This first week of 2019, we examine a book that sheds light on the fight to secure a crucial, if often underappreciated, Constitutional right in the United States: the right of the press and the public to attend jury selection and pre-trial hearings in criminal cases in the United States. This week, we look at Justice In Plain Sight by Dan Bernstein.
This was a well researched and documented look at two pivotal Supreme Court cases from the mid 1980s that established a Constitutional Right of the public and the press to attend jury selection (the first case) and pre-trial hearings (the second case). The last 17% of the version of the book I read was nothing but footnote references, and that didn’t even include an index! Yet for all its research, it still presented a very readable, very well structured look at the entire environment surrounding these cases. What were the specific facts of the cases themselves? What had the Supreme Court been doing recently relative to the issues being asked of it in these cases? Who were the humans involved – from the accused criminals to the lawyers representing them to the prosecutors and the newspapermen and the newspapermens’ lawyers and the various judges at ever level? We get brief biographies of them all, and yet it all works together to show how these people met at this particular moment in history to fight this particular battle that produced this particular result. Even the epilogue, showing just how important these two cases have been in just the last decade or so, was eye opening.
Seriously, read this book. Read it this year, the 35th anniversary of when the first case was decided. Because it has only been within this reader’s lifetime that these cases have been decided at the Supreme Court level, and that in and of itself is simply astounding.
And as always, we end with the Goodreads review:
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