Lecture: Levinson on Constitutional Faith at Touro

On October 10, Professor Sanford Levinson will deliver the inaugural lecture in what looks like a wonderful lecture series at the Jewish Law Institute at Touro Law Center, directed by my friend, Sam Levine.  Professor Levinson will speak about his well-known book, Constitutional Faith, which has been reissued with a new afterword by Levinson, as noted here.  — MOD

Spencer on the Mahr as Contract

Katherine Spencer (Harvard University) has posted Mahr as Contract: Internal Pluralism and External Perspectives. The abstract follows. —YAH

This paper examines the Islamic legal doctrine of mahr- an inherent component to the marriage contract. In the first part the principal aspects of the marriage contract are analyzed and the pluralism between Islamic schools and geo-political regimes are acknowledged. In the second part the ‘mahr’ itself is specifically considered, noting the difficulties for Western scholars in conceptualizing and categorizing a provision that has no equivalent in Judeo-Christian marriage. The third part looks at the ways in which US and UK courts have categorized the mahr as a contract, or a term within a contract and yet have reached different conclusions on its enforceability. This produces inconsistent and sometimes unfair results and begs the question whether the recognition of Islamic family law by ‘Western’ courts is inherently problematic. In the final section I attempt to answer some of those larger questions and conclude with the view that giving effect to mahr agreements as enforceable personal rights is judicially feasible – with the proviso however that in circumstances of profound unfairness and where contrary to public policy courts maintain the discretion to render such contracts unenforceable.

Iranian Pastor Faces Death Penalty for Apostasy

From Terry Mattingly at GetReligion, this troubling story: Rev. Yousef Nadarkhani, an Evangelical pastor in Iran, is facing execution for apostasy. Nadarkhani converted to Christianity as an adult. Although he never was a practicing Muslim, he has Muslim ancestry — which means, according to the Iranian courts, that his conversion qualifies as apostasy, a capital offense. Under the Iranian courts’ reading of Islamic law, Nadarkani must be given three public opportunities to renounce his apostasy  before being subject to the death penalty. He has already refused twice to return to Islam; his third opportunity comes in an Iranian court this week, after which he may be executed. Mattingly criticizes the media for failing to cover this story, after all the attention given to the American hikers Iran released earlier this week. — MLM

The John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at WUSTL

Washington University, St. Louis, recently established the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, directed by Marie Griffith (formerly of the Harvard Divinity School), which studies the role of religion and politics in American society and, among other things, “convenes public conferences and lectures to address local, state, and national issues related to religion and politics.”  Take a look, and note a couple of interesting upcoming lectures on the center’s events pages by Kevin Schultz (Illinois), on the friendship of Norman Mailer and William F. Buckley, Jr.,  and William Inboden (UT), on Reinhold Niebuhr, Religious Liberty, and World War II.  — MOD