Saturday, March 25, 2017

Geoff Stone, Sexing the Constitution at Volokh

Geoff Stone has in a five part series blogged about his new book at the Volokh Conspiracy. This is the introduction by Eugene Volokh followed by parts One, Two, Three, Four and Five. Below is an excerpt from Eugene's introduction that reproduces the publisher's summary:
University of Chicago Professor Geoffrey Stone — one of the nation’s leading liberal constitutional scholars — is guest-blogging this week about his new book, “Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century.” Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s summary:
Beginning his volume in the ancient and medieval worlds, Geoffrey R. Stone demonstrates how the Founding Fathers, deeply influenced by their philosophical forebears, saw traditional Christianity as an impediment to the pursuit of happiness and to the quest for human progress. Acutely aware of the need to separate politics from the divisive forces of religion, the Founding Fathers crafted a constitution that expressed the fundamental values of the Enlightenment.

Although the Second Great Awakening later came to define America through the lens of evangelical Christianity, nineteenth-century Americans continued to view sex as a matter of private concern, so much so that sexual expression and information about contraception circulated freely, abortions before “quickening” remained legal, and prosecutions for sodomy were almost nonexistent.
The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reversed such tolerance, however, as charismatic spiritual leaders and barnstorming politicians rejected the values of our nation’s founders. Spurred on by Anthony Comstock, America’s most feared enforcer of morality, new laws were enacted banning pornography, contraception, and abortion, with Comstock proposing that the word “unclean” be branded on the foreheads of homosexuals. Women increasingly lost control of their bodies, and birth control advocates, like Margaret Sanger, were imprisoned for advocating their beliefs. In this new world, abortions were for the first time relegated to dank and dangerous back rooms.
There are a lot of interesting things to learn from Professor Stone. Though, he does engage in a great deal of "law office" history. He's a lawyer after all. 

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

The commentariat at Volokh seems singularly unimpressed by Prof Stone's bullshit one way or the other.

As for those who demur, they begin with his unsubstantiated claim that Christians saw sex as inherently sinful. If he knew anything about the times, he would know that within the confines of marriage, the Protestants be they Puritan or Anabaptist, were quite enthusiastic about sex.

Post-Founding, another interesting demurral--on an area in which I'm admittedly completely ignorant--is that his archvillian Anthony Comstock

had the support of the new women's vote and that like Prohibition, legal sexual "prudery" had their support, and Comstock Laws were their fruit, not that of some patriarchal Christian establishment.

The argument was and is that prostitution in those days--and in later years the Sexual Revolution--undermined the family structure in that sex and children were decoupled.

I find this line of argument far more interesting than Prof. Stone's predictable leftist demonization of male Christians. The greatest threat to the family, a mother and her children, are booze and other women, and once achieved, women's suffrage got to work.