Around the Web This Week

Here is a look at some law and religion news stories from around the web this past week:

Yaqub, “Imperfect Strangers”

This month, Cornell University Press releases Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.–Middle East Relations in the 1970s by Salim Yaqub (University of California, Santa Barbara). The publisher’s description follows:

imperfect-strangersIn Imperfect Strangers, Salim Yaqub argues that the 1970s were a pivotal decade for U.S.-Arab relations, whether at the upper levels of diplomacy, in street-level interactions, or in the realm of the imagination. In those years, Americans and Arabs came to know each other as never before. With Western Europe’s imperial legacy fading in the Middle East, American commerce and investment spread throughout the Arab world. The United States strengthened its strategic ties to some Arab states, even as it drew closer to Israel. Maneuvering Moscow to the sidelines, Washington placed itself at the center of Arab-Israeli diplomacy. Meanwhile, the rise of international terrorism, the Arab oil embargo and related increases in the price of oil, and expanding immigration from the Middle East forced Americans to pay closer attention to the Arab world.

Yaqub combines insights from diplomatic, political, cultural, and immigration history to chronicle the activities of a wide array of American and Arab actors—political leaders, diplomats, warriors, activists, scholars, businesspeople, novelists, and others. He shows that growing interdependence raised hopes for a broad political accommodation between the two societies. Yet a series of disruptions in the second half of the decade thwarted such prospects. Arabs recoiled from a U.S.-brokered peace process that fortified Israel’s occupation of Arab land. Americans grew increasingly resentful of Arab oil pressures, attitudes dovetailing with broader anti-Muslim sentiments aroused by the Iranian hostage crisis. At the same time, elements of the U.S. intelligentsia became more respectful of Arab perspectives as a newly assertive Arab American community emerged into political life. These patterns left a contradictory legacy of estrangement and accommodation that continued in later decades and remains with us today.

Gampel, “Anti-Jewish Riots in the Crown of Aragon and the Royal Response, 1391–1392”

In October, Cambridge University Press will release Anti-Jewish Riots in the Crown of Aragon and the Royal Response, 1391-1392 by Benjamin R. Gampel (Jewish Theological Seminary). The publisher’s description follows:

anti-jewish-riotsThe most devastating attacks against the Jews of medieval Christian Europe took place during the riots that erupted, in 1391 and 1392, in the lands of Castile and Aragon. For ten horrific months, hundreds if not thousands of Jews were killed, numerous Jewish institutions destroyed, and many Jews forcibly converted to Christianity. Benjamin Gampel explores why the famed convivencia of medieval Iberian society – in which Christians, Muslims and Jews seemingly lived together in relative harmony – was conspicuously absent. Using extensive archival evidence, this critical volume explores the social, religious, political, and economic tensions at play in each affected town. The relationships, biographies and personal dispositions of the royal family are explored to understand why monarchic authority failed to protect the Jews during these violent months. Gampel’s extensive study is essential for scholars and graduate students of medieval Iberian and Jewish history.

Brettschneider: An Expansive Establishment Clause, Too

All this month, we are hosting an online symposium on Vincent Phillip Muñoz‘s new article, “Two Concepts of Religious Liberty.” In today’s post, Corey Brettschneider (Brown) responds to Muñoz. For other posts in this series, please click here

It is my pleasure to reply to Professor Muñoz’s fine article and excellent post. It is also a pleasure to join such a robust conversation about the Founders’ ideas about religious freedom and their implications for contemporary jurisprudence. Muñoz argues that the Founders held a jurisdictional view of religious freedom that divided the divine authority over religious worship and protected it against secular authority. The jurisdictional view would also protect a wide terrain of secular authority from religious intervention. So far, commentators have focused on the implications of Muñoz’s jurisdictional view for the Court’s contemporary Free Exercise jurisprudence. I want to refocus on the implications of Muñoz’s account for Establishment jurisprudence. While Muñoz might be correct that the Founders’ vision pushes toward Smith rather than Sherbert, and thus suggests doctrine on the weaker end of free exercise, I suggest why his account recommends an expansive reading of the Establishment Clause.

In his article, Muñoz argues the Founders understood the Free Exercise Clause to ban the state from regulating worship. It follows that the limits on secular authority in matters of worship provide government a very expansive authority over secular matters. The flip side  of the limited jurisdiction government has in matters of worship is a vast limit on religious influence over secular lawmaking. This limit has important implications for the breadth of the Establishment Clause. I want to push Munoz to think about how the jurisdictional view would address two fundamental jurisprudential problems. The first concerns third party harm and the second concerns the Establishment Clause requirement of secular purpose.

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act required an exemption to a federal requirement that closely held for-profit corporations provide birth control coverage to their employees even when those corporations object to providing it on religious grounds. Jack Rakove rightly suggests that the notion of third party harm might be directly relevant to the Founders’ view. In the Hobby Lobby case, he argues, the rights of a potential beneficiary of birth control might be violated by the imposition of a religiously-based refusal to provide a benefit by an Continue reading

Brown, “Arguing Islam after the Revival of Arab Politics”

In November, Oxford University Press will release Arguing Islam after the Revival of Arab Politics by Nathan J. Brown (George Washington University). The publisher’s description follows:

arguing-islamFor much of its modern history, a combination of deep nervousness and profound lack of interest seemed to inhibit or even prevent regular political conversations in the Arab World. Public spaces were devoid of political discussions: public squares in major cities showed no signs of assemblies for political purposes. If one picked up a newspaper, one was more likely to read about the comings and goings of officials rather than any sort of comprehensive political coverage.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, newer media and older forms (such as the daily newspaper) have gradually made it easier for Middle East countries to participate in public debates from a variety of ideological perspectives. The state retreat from social welfare commitments have opened opportunities for a host of new informal groups and organizations to operate in areas previously dominated by officially-controlled bodies. These trends have obviously been noticed by social scientists, but scholars who focus on the large-scale political changes tend to edge into a celebratory tone: the changes are seen as potentially democratizing.

Arguing Islam after the Revival of Arab Politics presents an understanding the “revived” forms of Arab politics as they really are, and does not speculate about the democratic future these changes could signal. In particular, this book examines various sites of Arab public life to explore how politics operates. Four kinds of public spheres are brought into focus: small group discussions that straddle the public/private divide (such as diwaniyyas in Kuwait or piety groups in Egypt), public spaces of assembly (such as public squares and mosques), media (both new and old), and parliaments (an institution etymologically founded in philosophizing and pontificating rather than legislating). Further, the author gives due attention to the ways in which these spheres interact to explore how these gradations, affirmations, and subversions of hierarchy, status, and power make up the current political landscape of the Middle East.

The resulting work is one that is able to bridge disciplinary boundaries, offering understandings of the new political sphere. Designed to speak beyond a scholarly audience, this volume will contribute to broader public understandings of Islam in practice and of Arab politics as those who participate in it experience it.

Caravale, “Preaching and Inquisition in Renaissance Italy”

In November, Brill Publishers will release Preaching and Inquisition in Renaissance Italy: Words on Trial by Giorgio Caravale (University of Rome). The publisher’s description follows:

Preaching and Inquisition in Renaissance Italy.jpgAs has been well documented, the printed word was an essential vehicle for the transmission of reformed theology, and one that has left a tangible record for historians to explore. Yet as contemporaries well recognized, books were only a part of the process. It was the spoken word – and especially preaching – that created the demand for printed works. Sermons were the plough that prepared the ground for Lutheran literature to flourish. In order to better understand the relationship between oral sermons and the spread of protestant ideas, Preaching and Inquisition in Renaissance Italy draws upon the records of the Roman Inquisition to see how that institution confronted the challenges of reform on the Italian peninsula in the sixteenth century. At the heart of its subject matter is the increasingly sophisticated rhetorical skill of heterodox preachers at the time, who achieved their ends by silence and omission rather than positive affirmations of Lutheran tenets.

Event Announcement: National Moot Court Competition in Law and Religion

On April 2 and 3, 2017, the Touro Law Center will host its fourth annual National Moot Court Competition in Law and Religion. Those interested can obtain more information about the event and can register for it here until November 30, 2016. Touro’s description of the event follows:

Touro Law Center is pleased to announce our 4th Annual National Moot Court Competition in Law and Religion. The semi-final and final rounds of the competition will take place at the Alfonse D’Amato Federal Courthouse, located directly across the street from Touro Law Center in Central Islip, NY. Awards will be presented to individuals and teams for first and second place, for top three best briefs, and top six best oralists. Accommodations will be available within walking distance of the law school and the courthouse. Touro Law is located within an hour of New York City and the metropolitan airports. United States District Court Judges and Magistrate Judges of the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip will be judging the semi-final rounds.

Robinson, “Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives”

In November, the University of California Press will release Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives: The First 1,000 Years by Chase F. Robinson (City University of New York). The publisher’s description follows:

islamic-civilization-in-thirty-livesReligious thinkers, political leaders, lawmakers, writers, and philosophers have shaped the 1,400-year-long development of the world’s second-largest religion. But who were these people? What do we know of their lives and the ways in which they influenced their societies?

In Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives, the distinguished historian of Islam Chase F. Robinson draws on the long tradition in Muslim scholarship of commemorating in writing the biographies of notable figures, but he weaves these ambitious lives together to create a rich narrative of Islamic civilization, from the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century to the era of the world conquerer Timur and the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in the fifteenth.

Beginning in Islam’s heartland, Mecca, and ranging from North Africa and Iberia in the west to Central and East Asia, Robinson not only traces the rise and fall of Islamic states through the biographies of political and military leaders who worked to secure peace or expand their power, but also discusses those who developed Islamic law, scientific thought, and literature. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of rich and diverse Islamic societies. Alongside the famous characters who colored this landscape—including Muhammad’s cousin ’Ali; the Crusader-era hero Saladin; and the poet Rumi—are less well-known figures, such as Ibn Fadlan, whose travels in Eurasia brought fascinating first-hand accounts of the Volga Vikings to the Abbasid Caliph; the eleventh-century Karima al-Marwaziyya, a woman scholar of Prophetic traditions; and Abu al-Qasim Ramisht, a twelfth-century merchant millionaire.

An illuminating read for anyone interested in learning more about this often-misunderstood civilization, this book creates a vivid picture of life in all arenas of the pre-modern Muslim world.

“Melania” (Chin and Schroeder, eds.)

In October, the University of California Press will release Melania: Early Christianity through the Life of One Family edited by Catherine M. Chin (University of California, Davis) and Caroline T. Schroeder (University of the Pacific). The publisher’s description follows:

melaniaMelania the Elder and her granddaughter Melania the Younger were major figures in early Christian history, using their wealth, status, and forceful personalities to shape the development of nearly every aspect of the religion we now know as Christianity. This volume examines their influence on late antique  Christianity and provides an insightful portrait of their legacies in the modern world. Departing from the traditionally patriarchal view, Melania gives a poignant and sometimes surprising account of how the rise of Christian institutions in the Roman Empire shaped our understanding of women’s roles in the larger world.

An Awful Report by the USCCR

I have a post up at Law and Liberty on the recent report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties.” It is not positive. A bit:

The recommendations begin with the ominous observation that civil rights protections ensuring nondiscrimination “are of preeminent importance in American jurisprudence.” Preeminent over what, exactly? That quickly becomes crystal clear: over religious freedom. Supreme Court decisions that the commissioners celebrate for reflecting this preeminence include Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2011), EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch (2015), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). It is telling that the commission includes Abercrombie and Fitchan utterly unremarkable case involving the interpretation of the standard for an employer’s state of mind in a disparate treatment action under Title VII—because it thereby squeezes and deforms religious freedom into the only framework it can accept or understand: nondiscrimination.

After this, we are treated to the following hodgepodge of inanity: “Schools must be allowed to insist on inclusive values.” Apparently this is meant as a defense of Martinez; but it ought to read, “schools must be allowed to insist that everybody espouse the values we have canonized.”

The commissioners go on to say that “throughout history, religious doctrines accepted at one time later become viewed as discriminatory, with religions changing accordingly.”Really? Is this statement made in promotion of “peaceful coexistence” and “reconciliation”? It sounds more like a crude bit of pseudo-history capped by a fairly direct threat.

 

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