Religion and Law in the United Kingdom (Mark Hill et al. eds, 2011)

Kluwer has released Religion and Law in the United Kingdom (2011), edited by Mark Hill, Russell Sandberg, and Norman Doe.  A description follows. — MLM

Derived from the renowned multi-volume International Encyclopaedia of Laws, this convenient resource provides systematic information on how the United Kingdom deals with the role religion plays or can play in society, the legal status of religious communities and institutions, and the legal interaction among religion, culture, education, and media. After a general introduction describing the social and historical background, the book goes on to explain the legal framework in which religion is approached. Coverage proceeds from the principle of religious freedom through the rights and contractual obligations of religious communities; international, transnational, and regional law effects; and the legal parameters affecting the influence of religion in politics and public life. Also covered are legal positions on religion in such specific fields as church financing, labour and employment, and matrimonial and family law. A clear and comprehensive overview of relevant legislation and legal doctrine make the book an invaluable reference source and very useful guide. Succinct and practical, this book will prove to be of great value to practitioners in the myriad instances where a law-related religious interest arises in the United Kingdom. Academics and researchers will appreciate its value as a thorough but concise treatment of the legal aspects of diversity and multiculturalism in which religion plays such an important part.

Anti-Semitism in America’s Favorite Pastime

Kenneth Lasson, Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law has posted Hammerin’ Hank & the Golden Arm: Remembering Baseball’s Jewish Hall of Famers.  The piece explores the experiences of Hank Greenberg (AKA the “Hebrew Hammer”), first baseman and power hitter for the Detroit Tigers, and pitcher Sanford “Sandy” Koufax of the  Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers.  Both endured anti-Semitic taunts, discrimination, and abuse during their careers in “America’s Favorite Pastime,” including for their refusal to play key World Series games so that they could attend Yom Kippur services.  This brief essay raises questions of American religious intolerance through the experience of religious minorities perceived as outsiders in a quintessentially American discipline.  Here is the paper’s brief abstract:

This article mostly discusses two of baseball’s greatest players, Sandy Koufax, and Hank Greenberg. Not only does it describe their great talent at the game, but also the religious discrimination, taunts and abuse they had to endure for their religious beliefs, not just from the public, but occasionally from members of opposing teams as well.


—DRS, CLR Fellow

Steven D. Smith: Freedom of Religion or Freedom of the Church?

Professor Steven D. Smith of the University of San Diego School of Law has posted, Freedom of Religion or Freedom of the Church?.  In it, he argues that the modern jurisprudence of the religion clauses is so untidy because it focuses on an amorphous concept of “religion” when instead it should focus on the more discrete concept of “the church.”  See the abstract below:

This essay argues that the well known problems in modern religion clause jurisprudence can be traced back to a common mistake: we have supposed that the clauses are about religion when in fact they are (or should be) about the church. Part 1 of the essay argues that the understanding which supposes that the Constitution requires special treatment of “religion,” or that it creates or accepts a special category of “religion” that involves distinctive benefits and burdens and disqualifications, rests on a false dichotomy, or a debilitating category mistake. Part 2 briefly recounts how, historically, a campaign for freedom of the church – a campaign devoted to maintaining the church as a jurisdiction independent of the state-developed into a commitment to freedom of conscience (conscience being the “inner church,” so to speak). The section then relates how this commitment to freedom of the church – both the institutional church and the inner church – came to be reconceived as a more generic commitment to freedom of religion, with the unfortunate consequences considered in Part 1.

—DRS, CLR Fellow

Moyn’s “The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History”

International human rights is a conspicuous idea in legal discourse today; one can even take specific courses devoted to the subject.  Talk about international human rights has always seemed to me to fit at best imperfectly within our own constitutional framework for thinking about legal rights.  And legal scholar Michael Perry (Emory) has done important work over the years tracing the idea of human rights to a distinctly religious source and foundation (see, for example, his Toward a Theory of Human Rights: Religion, Law, Courts (CUP 2006)).

In The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (HUP 2010), Samuel Moyn (Columbia) offers a critical and cautionary perspective on the idea of human rights.  The first couple of chapters of the book may be particularly interesting for CLR Forum readers, but the whole thing is well worth considering.  The publisher’s description follows.  — MOD

Human rights offer a vision of international justice that today’s idealistic millions hold dear. Yet the very concept on which the movement is based became familiar only a few decades ago when it profoundly reshaped our hopes for an improved humanity. In this pioneering book, Samuel Moyn elevates that extraordinary transformation to center stage and asks what it reveals about the ideal’s troubled present and uncertain future.

For some, human rights stretch back to the dawn of Western civilization, the age of the American and French Revolutions, or the post–World War II moment when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was framed. Revisiting these episodes in a dramatic tour of humanity’s moral history, The Last Utopia shows that it was in the decade after 1968 that human rights began to make sense to broad communities of people as the proper cause of justice. Across eastern and western Europe, as well as throughout the United States and Latin America, human rights crystallized in a few short years as social activism and political rhetoric moved it from the hallways of the United Nations to the global forefront.

It was on the ruins of earlier political utopias, Moyn argues, that human rights achieved contemporary prominence. The morality of individual rights substituted for the soiled political dreams of revolutionary communism and nationalism as international law became an alternative to popular struggle and bloody violence. But as the ideal of human rights enters into rival political agendas, it requires more vigilance and scrutiny than when it became the watchword of our hopes.