Haddad on the Challenges Facing Muslims in America

This month, Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Professor of, among other subjects, history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Georgetown University, publishes Becoming American? The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America (Baylor).  While Muslims face many unfortunate difficulties arriving in this nation—ugliness post 9/11 which I could elaborate on for hours—their arrival, in essence, forces those already here to examine who they are, to question what America—and being an American—means.  The publisher’s description is below.

Countless generations of Arabs and Muslims have called the United States “home.” Yet while diversity and pluralism continue to define contemporary America, many Muslims are viewed by their neighbors as painful reminders of conflict and violence. In this concise volume, renowned historian Yvonne Haddad argues that American Muslim identity is as uniquely American it is for as any other race, nationality, or religion.

Becoming American? first traces the history of Arab and Muslim immigration into Western society during the 19th and 20th centuries, revealing a two-fold disconnect between the cultures—America’s unwillingness to accept these new communities at home and the activities of radical Islam abroad. Urging America to reconsider its tenets of religious pluralism, Haddad reveals that the public square has more than enough room to accommodate those values and ideals inherent in the moderate Islam flourishing throughout the country. In all, in remarkable, succinct fashion, Haddad prods readers to ask what it means to be truly American and paves the way forward for not only increased understanding but for forming a Muslim message that is capable of uplifting American society.

—DRS, CLR Fellow

More on Lund and Anti-Catholicism Redux

As my colleague, Andrew Hamilton notes below, Christopher C. Lund of Wayne State University School of Law will soon publish The New Victims of the Old Anti-Catholicism in the Connecticut Law Review.  Having read Prof. Lund’s paper, I would like to complement Andrew’s post by detailing Lund’s claims.

Lund links the attitude underlying 21st-century, religious-freedom jurisprudence with the both popular and legal anti-Catholic prejudice that pervaded the United States in the 19th-century—yet he does so without examining any recent case brought by a Catholic.

Nevertheless, in the four cases Lund examines, the plaintiffs’ status as members of a religious minority—or an a-religious one—and their struggle for legal recognition bridge this apparent divide.  In other words, like 19th-century Catholics, all of the cases involve plaintiffs in a religious minority seeking recognition of their beliefs and practices as legal rights under the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses.  Thus, Lund connects a present-day American Wiccan, Muslim, Evangelical Protestant, and Atheist to Catholics in America one-hundred-fifty-years ago.  More poignantly, in each contemporary case the plaintiff lost—outcomes that erode the idealistic notion that American legal and popular tolerance of minority religions expands with time.

For a description of each of the four cases Lund examines—and their significance—please follow the jump. Read more

Legal Indictments and Indictments of Other Kinds

When someone is indicted in criminal law, the meaning of the indictment is that a grand jury has found that it is more probable than not that the accused has committed a specific criminal offense.  An indictment is an accusation by the government.  The accused cannot be brought to trial without it.  One ought to take note of an indictment, but one ought also to recognize that different standards of proof govern indictments than criminal trials and that little in the way of evidence is often needed to obtain an indictment.  Lastly, there is generally no opportunity to present exculpatory evidence or make any pre-trial motions in the indictment process.  The indictment is the prosecutor’s instrument alone.  I know that many readers will know this, but I thought it might be useful to clarify the specific and limited quality of a legal indictment since Bishop Finn was indicted under a Missouri statute.  I believe, but am not sure, that the statute is section 210.115.1 of the Missouri Code, which states:

When any . . .  minister . . . has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect or observes a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances which would reasonably result in abuse or neglect, that person shall immediately report or cause a report to be made to the division in accordance with the provisions of sections 210.109 to 210.183 . . . .

One of the reasons that I think it important to emphasize the particular and somewhat arcane legal meaning of an indictment is because of columns like this one by Anthea Butler, a professor of religion at the University of Pennsylvania, who titles her piece, “Bishop Finn-dicted For Protecting Pedophile Priest.”

Professor Butler properly notes the fact of Bishop Finn’s indictment, but then makes some statements which, at least from a legal perspective, are not sound.  She claims, for example, that “the indictment is another warning shot aimed at the enclave of the Vatican.”  The expression of symbolic minatory messages is not the purpose of a legal indictment.  She connects the indictment to “[c]hanges to the liturgy” which she believes “have many up in arms[.]”  Again, liturgical preferences have nothing at all to do with this indictment.  She claims that “Cardinals and Bishops like Philadelphia’s Bishop Chaput can only whine about how terrible the press is, without being accountable for the actions that have caused the press to scrutinize the church so intensely.”  If this is a reference to the indictment of Bishop Finn, I’m afraid it is misplaced.  “Cardinals and Bishops like Philadelphia’s Bishop Chaput” had no legal duty to report child abuse under the Missouri statute.

And Professor Butler concludes with this: “The church does not need another plan; what’s needed is action and more indictments to get the attention of an institution that has sacrificed children to protect its rotten hierarchy. I for one cannot wait for the real purge of tainted clerics to happen.”  Once again, Professor Butler’s excitement for the coming purge and the issuance of “more indictments” has nothing to do with the legal indictment of Bishop Finn.

Obviously Professor Butler is interested in indictments of other kinds — political, social, cultural, religious — but these are not legal indictments, and I think it important to keep the difference clearly in view.  — MOD

Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Sandoz ed.)

The eighteenth and early nineteenth century political sermons of New England preachers are windows on the world of church-state relations in early America, and ones which only a few scholars of religious liberty have taken the time to look through.  They are particularly valuable, in my view, for what they suggest about the manner in which founding-era Americans understood the meaning of establishment and disestablishment, and of the connections between religion and government.    

Many of these sermons are collected in the two-volume set, The Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, published by the excellent Liberty Fund in 1991 and edited by Ellis Sandoz (LSU).  They can be downloaded and enjoyed for free from the Liberty Fund site.  — MOD