Movsesian to Participate in Next Week’s Forum 2000 Conference

CLR Director Professor Mark L. Movsesian will participate in the fifteenth annual Forum 2000 Conference, to be held from October 9-11, 2011, in Prague. Convened under the auspices of Vaclav Havel, the conference brings together global leaders from politics, academia, religion, business and civil society. This year’s theme is “Democracy and the Rule of Law.” Confirmed speakers include Havel, Joseph Stiglitz, Elie Wiesel, Hernando de Soto, Vartan Gregorian and Mikheil Saakashvili. Professor Movsesian will participate in two panels, “Religion, Ethics and Law,” and “Religious and Secular Law.” The program is here.

Liveblogging Tonight’s Ministerial Exemption/Hosanna-Tabor Discussion

Tonight at St. John’s, CLR co-sponsored a panel on Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, scheduled for oral argument tomorrow at the Supreme Court. The case concerns whether a teacher at a religious school, who was also an ordained minister and performed several religious functions, can sue the school for unjust termination and retaliation under the terms of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  After Dean Michael Simons (right) opened the conference, Professor Marc DeGirolami gave historical background on the origins of church-state independence and the ministerial exemption.  Professor DeGirolami (below) explained that the ministerial exemption is intended to safeguard religious autonomy as well as several other values of religious liberty, but that important state values compete against these interests.    Professor Mark Movsesian addressed the underlying policies of the ministerial exemption, including the protection of religious worship as a communal activity and the need for institutions that can offset state power.  Professor David Gregory, Director of the St. John’s Center for Labor and Employment Law, addressed the issue in the employment law context.  And Peter J. Johnson, Jr., President of Leahey & Johnson, P.C., discussed whether the decision to hire and fire church employees should be made by the state or left to religious institutions.  –JKH & YAH

Pierik and Van der Burg on Neutrality

Roland Pierik (Amsterdam) and Wibren Van der Burg (Erasmus University Rotterdam) have posted a new piece, What Is Neutrality?, on SSRN.  The abstract follows. — MLM

One of the central axioms of liberalism is that government should treat its citizens with equal respect and concern. One way to achieve that goal is that government should be neutral with respect to the variety of ideas of the good life its citizens endorse. The classic liberal interpretation of neutrality is that government should not embrace or penalize particular conceptions of the good life, but should provide a neutral framework within which the various and potentially conflicting conceptions of the good life can be pursued. Important ways of providing such a neutral framework are the employment of general laws that affect all citizens equally – or so it is assumed – and the exclusion of religious arguments and symbols from political debates and the public sphere in general.

In this paper we want to reinvestigate the question of liberal neutrality. We contend that liberal discussions have been dominated – if not hijacked – by one particular interpretation of what neutrality could imply, namely, exclusive neutrality, that aims to exclude religious and cultural expressions from the public sphere. Although we acknowledge the importance of this exclusive interpretation of neutrality in specific contexts, we will argue that that it is only one of several relevant interpretations. To substantiate our claim, we will firstly elaborate upon inclusive neutrality. To do so, we will formulate two supplementary interpretations of neutrality: proportional neutrality and compensatory neutrality. Secondly, we will argue that in most contexts inclusive proportional neutrality is more appropriate than exclusive neutrality.

Our elaboration of these different interpretations of the neutrality ideal can help to acknowledge that some political disputes should not be seen in terms of the antithesis between liberal neutrality and illiberal multiculturalism but of a clash between various valid but incompatible interpretations of what liberal neutrality can imply. In these cases there is no simple or straightforward answer to the question which interpretation of neutrality should prevail. Moreover, since neutrality is not an end in itself, it must be balanced against other liberal values, mentioned above. Philosophical analysis can only show which values are at stake in this balancing act; actual choices can only be made in specific contexts.

Ministerial Exemption/Hosanna-Tabor Discussion Today at St. John’s

Just a reminder that if you are around today at 5:30, please swing by the atrium, where CLR and the Catholic Law Student Society at St. John’s University School of Law will co-host an event devoted to Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, which is on for oral argument tomorrow. 

I will be talking about the idea of church-state “independence” and the ways in which this might or might not be the same as church-state separation, as well as the case itself and the doctrine of the ministerial exemption (I prefer exemption to exception — exemption evoking what I consider to be the preferable free exercise jurisprudence pre-Smith, of which the ME forms a natural part).  There will then be a period of questions, discussants to include my colleagues David Gregory and Mark Movsesian as well as Mr. Peter J. Johnson, Jr., president of Leahy & Johnson, P.C. 

After the event, I’ll post some thoughts here.  — MOD

Supreme Court Denials and Holds on Religion Clause Cases

SCOTUS Blog reports (Lyle Denniston) that the Justices denied certiorari on a new Ten Commandments case as well as a RLUIPA case but did nothing yet with respect to the fairly well-known Utah highway cross case out of the 10th Circuit.  Here’s the relevant bit.  (And see my colleague Mark’s post below on the Court’s Ten Commandments display doctrine.)   — MOD

Among the hundreds of cases denied review was one involving a plea for the Court to reopen the question of the constitutionality of posting the Ten Commandments on the wall of a courtroom — an issue brought to it by a state judge in Ohio (DeWeese v. ACLU, 10-1512).  The Court, however, took no immediate action on the constitutionality of placing a Christian cross at the roadside sites of the deaths of on duty of state highway patrolmen (Utah Highway Patrol Association v. American Atheists, 10-1276, and Davenport v. American Atheists, 10-1297).  In another case involving church-state issues, the Court declined to sort out how far local governments must go, under the federal Religious Land Use [and Institutionalized Persons] Act, to allow churches to build new structures in areas of the city not zoned for such uses (San Leandro v. International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, 11-106).

Food & Faith: Society, Meals, and Christianity

In December, Columbia University Press will publish Food & Faith in Christian Culture, a collection of essays edited by Ken Albala, professor of history at the University of the Pacific.

The centrality of meals in Christianity can be traced to the Passover Seder, celebrated to commemorate the events recounted in Exodus.  In the New Testament, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem for the week-long Passover festival; the Last Supper was a Passover Seder; and, ultimately, that meal became the basis for the Communion Sacrament.  Thus, food is demonstrably central to Christian narrative and 2000 years of Christian ritual and liturgy.

From these roots, Christianity and food have interacted in a variety of ways that touch upon socio-political issues, from the difference in diet between the Jewish underclass in Palestine and their Roman occupiers, early Christian agape meals, agricultural production through history, and contemporary questions regarding vegetarianism and the ethics of eating meat.  The essays in this volume explore these and a variety of related issues.

Proceed through the link to see Columbia University Press’ description of the collection.

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