Web Sage The Nut Graph
Navigating the First Amendment in the Newsroom and Beyond


A series of primers on the First Amendment has been re-released on The primers, written for journalists, were originally compiled and released in 2005 as Religious Liberty in America: Navigating the First Amendment in the Newsroom and Beyond by Bruce T. Murray. The volume was subsequently updated and released by the University of Massachusetts Press as Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective. The first edition is out of print, but the original primers are now available online.


Topics in the online volume follow the order of chapters in both print versions. The articles are accessible as follows:

Introduction to Religious Liberty and the First Amendment

Understanding People of Faith

Civil Religion in America

Finding the Common Threads of Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty in Public Schools

Faith-Based Initiatives

The Supreme Court

A unique facet of this series, a feature that distinguishes it from other works on the topic, is its journalistic approach. In news-speak, the essential element of a complex news format is the “nut graph” — the kernel of a story that determines its direction. Religious Liberty in America was written so that every chapter and every subsection has a readily discernible nut graph. It was designed so that a reader could open the book to any particular page and quickly figure out what is happening. This format works not only for the benefit of students and reporters – always in a hurry – but also for the general reader who is looking for accessible information on the critical issue of religion and public life.

Murray’s more recent volume, published by the University of Massachusetts Press, is aimed primarily at a university audience, but the same principles apply: coherency and clarity of purpose. Throughout the text, the reader is kept firmly in mind. This is not a prosaic exhibition, but a clear and concise explanation of a complex topic.

The author, Bruce T. Murray, is a veteran journalist and a student at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

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