McConnell Reviews 2010 at the Court

Professor Michael McConnell (Stanford) has a comprehensive and incisive review of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decisions at First Things.  He says that as a whole, last year was comparatively calm when one takes a peek at the cases on for 2011.  I got pretty excited about some of the decisions that McConnell discusses (and I found it very interesting that he would have signed on to Justice Alito’s concurrence in Brown v. EMA, the violent video games decision) but I agree with him about this term.  A must read!!  — MOD [x-posted MOJ]

Van Alstyne on the Establishment Clause

William W. Van Alstyne (William & Mary Law School) has posted What is ‘An Establishment of Religion?’. The abstract follows.—YAH

This critical examination of the phrase “an establishment of religion” contained within the First Amendment uses an analysis to the exact language to draw out several possible interpretations, including: state established churches, the conventional understanding restricting any legislation dealing with religion, and the existence of religion in the actual operation of government.

Stolzenberg on Race and Religion in Law

Nomi M. Stolzenberg (University of Southern California Gould School of Law) has posted Righting the Relationship Between Race and Religion in Law. The abstract follows.—YAH

This review discusses the interrelationship of race and religion in law, the subject of Eve Darian-Smith’s new book, which seeks to rectify the neglect of religion in the study of race and law and the parallel neglect of race in studies of law and religion. Concurring with the book’s basic propositions, that the segregation of race and religion into separate fields of legal studies needs to be overcome and the religious origins of fundamental liberal legal ideas need to be recognized, I tease out different ways in which race and religion can be “linked” and religion can “play a role” in the development of modern law that are not fully parsed out in Darian-Smith’s analysis. Applauding her attempt to integrate recent challenges to the long regnant “secularization thesis” into the study of race and law, I point out some unresolved ambiguities in those challenges and their implications for law.

Solanki on Religious Family Laws in India

Gopika Solanki (Carelton University, Ottawa) has published Adjudication in Religious Family Laws: Cultural Accommodation, Legal Pluralism, and Gender Equality in India (Cambridge 2011). A description follows. — MLM

How do multireligious and multiethnic societies construct accommodative arrangements that can both facilitate cultural diversity and ensure women’s rights? Based on a study of legal adjudication of marriage and divorce across formal and informal arenas in contemporary Mumbai, this book argues that the shared adjudication model in which the state splits its adjudicative authority with religious groups and other societal sources in the regulation of marriage can potentially balance cultural rights and gender equality. In this model the Read more

Syria’s Religious Minorities and the Assad Regime

From Al Jazeera, an interesting analysis of Syria’s religious minorities and their worries about the downfall of the Assad regime. Many Americans would be surprised to learn that Syria is a religiously diverse society. Sunni Muslims make up about two-thirds of the population, but there are sizable minority communities, Alawites (around 13%) and Christians (around 10%), mostly, but also Druze, Jews, and Yezidis. Most of the minorities are ethnically Arab, though not all — not, for example, Armenian and Assyrian Christians.

Minorities are concerned about the possible downfall of the Assad regime, not because they particularly admire Assad, but because his secular Ba’ath Party has provided a space for them in Syrian society. Many worry about what sort of religious government would replace Assad.  From the article:

“When I asked a Greek-Orthodox Christian Syrian man in Bab-Toma, Damascus, if he agreed with Assad’s socio-political policies he responded that he did not support Assad’s oppressive security apparatus, but under his rule he and his family were able to freely attend church mass each Sunday and celebrate Christian holidays like Christmas each year. He followed up by saying that he had no assurance that any other sect in Syria would protect the Syrian-Christian community.”

Naturally, the tacit support of minorities for the Assad regime has angered the Read more

Geroulanos’s “An Atheism That Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought”

A “humanist” or even “secular humanist” view is sometimes, perhaps even often, contrasted with a “religious” perspective.  But in An Atheism That Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought (Stanford UP 2010), Stefanos Geroulanos (NYU, History) investigates the thought of early to mid-twentieth century French intellectuals and teases out the development of an atheism which was distinctively non- or even anti-humanist.  The publisher’s description follows.  — MOD

French philosophy changed dramatically in the second quarter of the twentieth century. In the wake of World War I and, later, the Nazi and Soviet disasters, major philosophers such as Kojève, Levinas, Heidegger, Koyré, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Hyppolite argued that man could no longer fill the void left by the “death of God” without also calling up the worst in human history and denigrating the dignity of the human subject. In response, they contributed to a new belief that man should no longer be viewed as the basis for existence, thought, and ethics; rather, human nature became dependent on other concepts and structures, including Being, language, thought, and culture. This argument, which was to be paramount for existentialism and structuralism, came to dominate postwar thought. This intellectual history of these developments argues that at their heart lay a new atheism that rejected humanism as insufficient and ultimately violent.