From the AP: the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have settled a lawsuit regarding the reconstruction of St. Nicholas Church, which stood across the street from the World Trade Center and was destroyed on 9/11. The Archdiocese had filed the suit earlier this year, contesting the Port Authority’s plans to move the church away from its original location, but rebuilding can now commence. Interestingly, the AP article refers to plans to add a nondenominational bereavement center to the church. This seems odd. Was the addition required by the Port Authority (could it have been?) or offered by the Archdiocese? The article doesn’t say. — MLM
Today’s classic revisited is Mark DeWolfe Howe’s The Garden and the Wilderness: Religion and Government in American Constitutional History (U. Chicago Press 1965). Howe — who wrote in an era when separationism was the dominant outlook in both the courts and the academy with respect to constitutional religious liberty — was one of the first to emphasize that the primary motivation for “separation” in early America was to protect church from state rather than the other way round. Howe frames his book in terms of a dichotomy between the perspectives of Roger Williams and Thomas Jefferson with respect to the meaning of separation, favoring the former’s view and criticizing, in the last few pages of the book, the Supreme Court for overemphasis of Jefferson’s position.
Later, when the famous wall metaphor began to show cracks, separation gradually ceased to become the exclusive mode in which the Supreme Court understood religious liberty — though the idea of separation as the independence of church and state remains a crucial idea of constitutional religious liberty. But Howe’s book is an important piece of the puzzle — one which introduced nuance about the meaning of separation and which, in turn and in time, contributed to the development of alternative understandings of the First Amendment. — MOD
From the NYT, a report on Kazakhstan’s new religious association law, which requires religious organizations in that country to dissolve and re-register with the government. Associations with less than 50 members will not be able to register locally; those with less than 500 members will not be allowed to register regionally. The new law also bans prayer in the workplace. Kazakhstan used to present itself as a model of religious tolerance, but recent Islamist-linked attacks in the country have apparently caused the government to crack down. The law is expected to have a serious impact on minority religious groups, such as Christians, many of which fail to meet the new membership requirements. — MLM
From the BBC this week, a helpful survey of Christian communities in the Middle East and their human rights concerns. — MLM