Automotive Holiday Deals Books Gift Guide Books Gift Guide Shop Men's Athletic Shoes Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon Train egg_2015 All-New Amazon Fire TV Grooming Deals Gifts Under $50 Amazon Gift Card Offer cm15 cm15 cm15 $30 Off Amazon Echo $30 Off Fire HD 6 Kindle Cyber Monday Deals Entertainment Collectibles Shop Now HTL

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

To An Unknown God: Religious Freedom On Trial 1st Edition

9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312262396
ISBN-10: 0312262396
Why is ISBN important?
This bar-code number lets you verify that you're getting exactly the right version or edition of a book. The 13-digit and 10-digit formats both work.
Scan an ISBN with your phone
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
More Buying Choices
18 New from $10.58 31 Used from $0.01 1 Collectible from $75.00
Free Two-Day Shipping for College Students with Amazon Student Free%20Two-Day%20Shipping%20for%20College%20Students%20with%20Amazon%20Student

Special Offers and Product Promotions

  • Take an Extra 30% Off Any Book: Use promo code HOLIDAY30 at checkout to get an extra 30% off any book for a limited time. Excludes Kindle eBooks and Audible Audiobooks. Restrictions apply. Learn more | Shop now

Editorial Reviews Review

To an Unknown God: Religious Freedom on Trial is the story of one of the most important Supreme Court cases of recent years involving religious freedom--the case that resulted in the passage of one of the most sweeping civil rights laws since the 1960s, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Author Garrett Epps writes with the simplicity and suspense of an investigative journalist (he was formerly a reporter for The Washington Post) and the precision and authority of a legal scholar (he teaches law at the University of Oregon). Both skills are necessary for bringing to life this strange and complicated tale, in which a routine unemployment dispute grew into a showdown regarding the right of Native Americans to worship God with the use of peyote. In addition to the book's deft analysis of the many legal questions the case raises, To an Unknown God describes a cast of memorable and intriguing characters, principal among them Al Smith, a 70-year-old drug-and-alcohol abuse counselor to Native Americans, and Dave Frohnmayer, a Harvard-educated politico who balanced his prosecution of this case with his commitment to caring for three children with a rare bone disease. Like A Civil Action and other classics of investigative journalism, To an Unknown God examines questions that arise in peculiar circumstances, and frames them with such skill and sensitivity as to make their universal relevance unquestionable. --Michael Joseph Gross

From Publishers Weekly

Supreme Court Justice William Brennan's 1963 Sherbert decision declared that unemployment insurance couldn't be denied to a Seventh-Day Adventist for refusing to work on Saturdays. In 1990 the Sherbert precedent was abruptly and unexpectedly overturned in Justice Antonin Scalia's Employment Division v. Smith decision, denying unemployment insurance for a Native American alcoholism counselor fired for religious use of peyote. Epps, an Oregon law professor and former Washington Post reporter, tells the story of the high court's decision as a human drama involving Al Smith, a Klamath tribe member in his 60s with 27 years of sobriety when he was fired, and Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer, who designed and argued the case against Smith (without, as it happens, challenging Sherbert). Oregon was the only state that did not allow religious use of peyote, and its constitution guaranteed religious freedom in a peculiar way that could have invited a flood of challenges if Smith's claim prevailed. Smith's personal story is compelling: he had previously battled not only against alcoholism but against cultural annihilation, and he knew the importance of defending the use of peyote in Native American religion. On the other hand, Frohnmayer had fought against a religious cult, that of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, though that case involved the use of germ warfare. Epps provides a lively, powerful narrative to develop his drama (including a Frohnmayer family disease subplot that stirs sympathy but illuminates nothing central). In doing so, however, he leaves important issues unexplored, including the history, law and judicial philosophies involved. Readers with sophisticated knowledge of the subject may find this account wanting, but it touches on important issues that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Two b&w photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Hero Quick Promo
Holiday Deals in Kindle Books
Save up to 85% on more than 1,000 Kindle Books. These deals are valid until November 30, 2015. Learn more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 289 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (March 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312262396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312262396
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,251,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 9 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The very first part of the essential, very first amendment to our Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This ringing phrase, so seemingly simple and obvious, has been the focus of an enormous amount of controversy and clarification. It is a great legacy, but what does it really mean? We are still struggling to find out. In _To an Unknown God: Religious Freedom on Trial_ (St. Martin's Press) by Garrett Epps we learn how one of the latest struggles is turning out. It is a fine book to show in detail how a specific constitutional decision came to be made.
On one side of the story was Al Smith. Smith was born into the Klamath tribe, but was pulled out of it to go to Catholic boarding school. Rather late in his life he was introduced to sweat lodges and Native American religion. He was also introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous, and eventually became a respected counselor, speaker, and organizer of treatment centers for alcohol and drug abuse. As he traveled to different reservations to set up recovery programs, he came across peyote religion. It seemed to give some of his clients spiritual strength, and they seemed to do better in overcoming substance abuse if they participated in its religious ceremonies. He began to consider participating in peyote religion. He was told that taking peyote at a ceremony would violate the rules of the treatment center in which he worked, and so he did so. He was thereupon fired, and he filed for unemployment compensation. That filing set the stage for a subsequent battle within the Supreme Court and beyond.
On the other side was Oregon Attorney General David Frohnmayer.
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Epps' book is one of the best in recent memory to explore a Supreme Court case. Examining the case of Oregon v. Smith, Epps deploys his skills as both a journalist and a novelist to plumb the depths of Indian rights, religious freedom and states rights. The only quibble one can have is that the book spends too much time on the minutae of Oregon Attorney General Frohnmeyer's life. Other than that minor matter, this is an elegantly told tale. As an aside, Epps presents a concise yet complete recouncting of the Rajhneesh cult saga of the '80's, relying to good effect of the work of Oregon Magazine Editor-in-Chief Win McCormack.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book could easily have been a bore--yet another detailed legal explication of a Supreme Court case you know you should be interested in, but aren't, because you can't follow the jargon. But in Epps' hands an amazing story comes to life. This is serious constitutional law, with enormous consequences for our country, and it reads like a novel. Anyone concerned with religion and free expression should read it. Or you could just read it because it's a great read!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Using both his brilliant legal mind, the journalistic skill he developed as president of The Harvard Crimson and later at the Washington Post, and the storytelling abilities he showed in his novels, Garrett Epps tells a truly remarkable story in his book To An Unknown God. With a deft hand, Epps tells a fascinating tale that in a lesser writer's hands could have been simply legal obfuscation or else simply melodrama. Luckily, Epps is able to avoid both and tell a story that truly evokes its characters like a novel while still making the complex legal issues involved with the Smith case fascinating. Indeed, Epps's ability to make passages on Oregon land-use laws or the free exercise clause actually interesting to laymen perhaps best comparable to Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action. What makes To An Unknown God even more fascinating than a legal drama like A Civil Action is the human drama--the classic conflict between two men, each the other's opposite: one, a Harvard educated Rhodes Scholar attorney general, the other, a down on his luck recovering alcoholic Native American man fired from his job. The story is not only about the legal battle, but the men's personal triumphs and defeats as they fought for their lives, families, and livelihoods. A must read for the casual reader and scholar alike.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was lucky enough to read an early copy of this book, and I found it astonishingly good. I had loved Epps's work as a novelist (his "Shad Treatment" is one of the best first novels I know) and I had always wondered if he could apply his writerly powers to non-fiction, as well. "To an Unknown God" draws on all the creative gifts that fans of Epps's earlier books will remember. He takes an important Supreme Court case about religious freedom (he's now a law professor) and tells the story through the remarkable personalities who were involved in the case: Al Smith, the Native American member of a peyote cult who was the plaintiff, and David Frohnmeyer, the all-American Republican wunderkind attorney general of Oregon, who argued that peyote use wasn't protected as an exercise of religious freedom. Epps deconstructs these billboard identities to provide a rich and very moving account of the real people and the heartbreaking pressures that shaped their actions in this legal case. This is a rare book--taking the sometimes dry subject of law and filling it with life. I hope it's a promise of more books to come from Epps, who is a vastly talented writer.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Want to discover more products? Check out this page to see more: modern world history