Inazu, “Liberty’s Refuge”

My friend John Inazu (Washington University St. Louis) has published Liberty’s Refuge: The Forgotten Freedom of Assembly (Yale 2011).  Warm congratulations to John for this wonderful work on a (before his book) understudied but vitally important liberty, which sometimes is teamed with religious liberty in constitutional cases.  The publisher’s description follows.

This original and provocative book looks at an important constitutional freedom that today is largely forgotten: the right of assembly. While this right lay at the heart of some of the most important social movements in American history—abolitionism, women’s suffrage, the labor and civil rights movements—courts now prefer to speak about the freedoms of association and speech. But the right of “expressive association” undermines protections for groups whose purposes are demonstrable not by speech or expression but through ways of being. John D. Inazu demonstrates that the forgetting of assembly and the embrace of association lose sight of important dimensions of our constitutional tradition.

UPDATE: John kindly informs me that he has made the entire text of his book available here for free.  You now have no excuse not to read it!

Ekelund & Tollison, “Economic Origins of Roman Christianity”

It isn’t often that law and economics and law and religion meet up, but this book, Economic Origins of Roman Christianity (U. Chicago Press 2011), by Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. and Robert D. Tollison, looks to be an exception.  The book is itself an example of how Americans believe that the tools of economics and the market can be fruitfully applied to understand all sorts of social phenomena — indeed, how the metaphor of the market is a natural fit for understanding religious experience.  Definitely worth a look, though I am not familiar with the designation, “Roman Christianity” (I’m sure the authors explain why they chose it).  The publisher’s description follows.

In the global marketplace of ideas, few realms spark as much conflict as religion. For millions of people, it is an integral part of everyday life, reflected by a widely divergent supply of practices and philosophical perspectives. Yet, historically, the marketplace has not always been competitive. While the early Common Era saw competition between Christianity, Judaism, and the many pagan cults, Roman Christianity came eventually to dominate Western Europe.
Using basic concepts of economic theory, Robert B. Ekelund Jr. and Robert D. Tollison explain the origin and subsequent spread of Roman Christianity, showing first how the standard concepts of risk, cost, and benefit can account for the demand for religion. Then, drawing on the economics of networking, entrepreneurship, and industrial organization, the book explains Christianity’s rapid ascent. Like a business, the church developed sound business strategies that increased its market share to a near monopoly in the medieval period. This book offers a fascinating look at the dynamics of Christianity’s rise, as well as how aspects the church’s structure—developed over the first millennium—illuminate a number of critical problems faced by the Church today. 

Banzhaf Complaint Against CUA Same-Sex Dorm Policy Dismissed

Here is the order of dismissal. The DCOHR did not reach CUA’s and President Garvey’s RFRA claims, relying instead on an interpretation of the DCHRA.  One important reason, in the DCOHR’s view, for dismissing the complaint was that to do otherwise would lead to absurd results, such as compulsory unisex bathrooms and compulsory unisex locker rooms.  Better to hold all of these practices outside the ken of the DCHRA.

I applaud the decision.  At the same time, I think it is extraordinary that in the current legal landscape, we are reduced to depending on the absurdity of forcing everyone, even if against their will, to accept unisex bathrooms, in order to conclude that a private religious institution like CUA can have men and women sleep in separate dorms.  The toilet: our safety-net of common sense. 

Onto the next Banzhaf complaint against CUA alleging discrimination against Muslims, to which not a single Muslim student has put his or her name.

Wendel on Christian Legal Ethics

W. Bradley Wendel (Cornell) has posted Lawyering in the Christian Colony: Some Hauerwasian Themes, Reflections, and Questions on SSRN. The abstract follows.

This paper was prepared for a conference on Stanley Hauerwas and the Law, held at Duke University in September 2011. One who shared Hauerwas’s theological commitments might find it difficult to serve as a lawyer, given that the principles of legal ethics are grounded in the kind of political liberalism that Hauerwas finds repellent. For example, Stephen Pepper’s well known liberal defense of the standard conception of legal ethics pretty much pushes all of the buttons that set off Hauerwas. Pepper argues that while the law necessarily imposes restrictions on what we may do, but no one else is empowered to place restrictions on our autonomy. In a complex, highly legalistic society, however, citizens are necessarily required in some cases to seek advice from legally trained professionals to determine whether their proposed course of conduct may violate the law, or to employ mechanisms provided for by the legal system (such as contrasts, wills and trusts, and business entities) to achieve their goals. In providing this assistance, lawyers should not impose their own views about the morality of their clients’ conduct; rather, they should assist their clients in implementing their own plans, providing technical assistance but not moral suasion. As any reader of Hauerwas knows, this is an aspect of the modernist anomie he warns about, in which the autonomy to decide for oneself is exalted into the first principle of ethics, with the result that individuals are cut off from the resources they need (traditions, communities, stories) to construct meaningful lives for themselves. This kind of alienation can be cured only by associating oneself with a community — for Hauerwas this is the church — and sharing in the ongoing development of its history. Thus, one may ask whether a Christian lawyer can follow some version of the standard conception, at least on Hauerwas’s conception of Christian social ethics.

With considerable hesitation, given the size and complexity of the corpus of Hauerwas’s scholarship, this paper attempts to offer an engaged Christian legal ethics in which the primary obligation of lawyers, acting in their Read more

The Elections in Egypt

From a NY Times article today:

The party formed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s mainstream Islamist group, appeared to have taken about 40 percent of the vote, as expected. But a big surprise was the strong showing of ultraconservative Islamists, called Salafis, many of whom see most popular entertainment as sinful and reject women’s participation in voting or public life.

Analysts in the state-run news media said early returns indicated that Salafi groups could take as much as a quarter of the vote, giving the two groups of Islamists combined control of nearly 65 percent of the parliamentary seats . . . .

Some members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority — about 10 percent of the population — joked Wednesday that they would prepare to leave the country. Previously protected by Mr. Mubarak’s patronage, many have dreaded the Islamists’ talk of protecting the Islamic character of Egypt. Some Brotherhood leaders often repeat that they believe citizenship is an equal right of all regardless of sect, even chanting at some campaign rallies that Copts are also “sons of Egypt.” But Salafis more often declare that Christians should not fear Islamic law because it requires the protection of religious minorities, an explanation that many Christians feel assigns them second-class status.

Allen on the Closing of Vatican Embassies

John Allen, always worth reading, has a story about the closing of the Embassy to the Holy See in Ireland and the possible future closings, at least among Western nations, that may be on the way.  The primary causes are three, he says: the desire to cut costs;  “a perception that the Vatican is less internationally engaged and less effective under Pope Benedict XVI than Pope John Paul II”; and the effect of the sex-abuse scandals, which have made the political climate more favorable to the closings than it otherwise would be.

I also thought these lines were interesting:

Vatican diplomats today, [Western ambassadors] say, are highly focused on issues of religious freedom and anti-Christian persecution, but sometimes less interested in other matters . . . . Most observers say that if there are to be additional closures or downsizings, it’s more likely, at least in the short term, to come from Europe rather than the United States. It’s a long shot, they say, that a Democratic president who already faces a rocky relationship with the Catholic church would take such a step — especially heading into 2012 elections in which the “Catholic vote” will once again be in play.

Of course, the Catholic vote will no longer be in play after the election.