Strasser, “Religion, Education and the State”

If there is one thing that religion clause scholars generally agree on (in fact, there may be only one thing), it is the unsatisfactory quality of religion clause doctrine, and especially Establishment Clause jurisprudence.  Mark Strasser’s (Capital University) new book, Religion, Education and the State: An Unprincipled Doctrine in Search of Moorings (Ashgate 2011), appears to fit squarely within the genre.  The publisher’s description follows.

In the context of education, Church and State issues are of growing importance and appear to be increasingly divisive. This volume critically examines the developing jurisprudence relating to religion in the schools beginning with Everson v. Board of Education, where the US Supreme Court discussed the wall of separation between Church and State. The study traces both how the Court’s views have evolved during this period and how, through recharacterizations of past opinions and the facts underlying them, the Court has appeared to interpret Establishment Clause guarantees in light of the past jurisprudence when in reality that jurisprudence has been turned on its head. The Court not only offers an unstable jurisprudence that is more likely to promote than avoid the problems that the Establishment Clause was designed to prevent, but approaches Establishment Clause issues in a way that decreases the likelihood that an acceptable compromise on these important issues can be reached.

The study focuses on the situation in the US but the important issue of religion, education and the state has great relevance in many jurisdictions.

Conference: Religion and Civilization in International History (March 8-9, 2012)

Here is a call for papers for the Twelfth Annual Harvard Graduate Student Conference on International History, to be held in Cambridge in March. This year’s theme is “Religion and Civilization in International History.” Details are below.

The ConIH Committee invites graduate students to submit proposals for the Twelfth Annual Graduate Student Conference on International History to take place at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 8-9, 2012.

Historical actors have used religion and civilization as potent tools for the creation and recreation of cultural and political identities, as well as other types of social cohesiveness. Studying religion and civilization, as distinct but often closely related concepts, raises questions about the theological underpinnings of the international order and international law, as well as the civilizational references that religious movements use to define their transnational missions within national, imperial, and other supranational frameworks. ConIH consequently invites graduate students from all continents and disciplines to submit studies that explore the international dimensions of religion and civilization.

We welcome submissions that examine religion and civilization in Read more

NY High Court Rules against Parishioners in Catholic Church Property Dispute

Another state high-court ruling highlighting the importance of the neutral principles of law doctrine in church property disputes. This week, the New York Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit that parishioners of Our Lady of Vilnius Roman Catholic Church in downtown New York City (left) had brought against the church’s board of trustees, seeking to overturn a decision to dissolve the parish and demolish the church building. In 2007, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, citing the parish’s declining membership and the decayed state of the church building, directed that the parish be dissolved; shortly thereafter, the church’s board of trustees voted to demolish the church building. A group of parishioners then sued, arguing that as members of the parish they, not the board of trustees, had the ultimate say. Applying the neutral principles of law doctrine, the Court of Appeals examined the relevant legal instruments and rejected the parishioners’ argument. The church held the deed, the court explained, and the church’s bylaws gave the board of trustees, not the parishioners, control of the property, to be exercised in conformity with archdiocesan directives.  Our Lady of Vilnius Church, about 100 years old, was the traditional Lithuanian Catholic parish in New York City. The case is Blaudziunas v. Egan (N.Y. 2011).