Slate has an interesting piece this week about Illinois’s new law on civil unions, enacted six months ago. Although Illinois designed civil unions principally to give same-sex couples the benefits of marriage without the name, the law also makes civil unions available to opposite-sex couples. And, in fact, about 7.5% of civil-union licences have gone to opposite-sex couples — though the total number of civil-union licenses itself is very small, only about 2000. Slate interviews some of the opposite-sex civilly-united couples and finds their reasons for selecting civil unions mostly have to do with objections to the traditionalism of marriage, including its religious connotations, and solidarity with gays and lesbians. Slate thinks the interest opposite-sex couples have shown in civil unions may further the deconstruction of marriage in America. Given how low the numbers are, I’m not sure. Anyway, worth reading. (H/T: Mirror of Justice).
Mark beat me to the punch about Perreau-Saussine’s new book, so instead I will recommend his superb intellectual biography of Alasdair MacIntyre from a few years ago, which, so far as I know, has not been translated. That ought to be rectified immediately. American readers would appreciate his thoughtful and penetrating remarks — an illuminating take on MacIntyre that is distinctively French in certain ways (I believe, but am not certain, that Pierre Manent was a teacher, or at least a colleague, of Perreau-Saussine, and it seemed to me that one could sense the influence here and there).
Princeton University Press has published a posthumous work by the late Cambridge lecturer Emile Perreau-Saussine, Catholicism and Democracy: An Essay in the History of Political Thought (Richard Rex trans. 2012). The publisher’s description follows.
Catholicism and Democracy is a history of Catholic political thinking from the French Revolution to the present day. Emile Perreau-Saussine investigates the church’s response to liberal democracy, a political system for which the church was utterly unprepared.
Looking at leading philosophers and political theologians–among them Joseph de Maistre, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Charles Péguy–Perreau-Saussine shows how the church redefined its relationship to the State in the long wake of the French Revolution. Disenfranchised by the fall of the monarchy, the church in France at first embraced that most conservative of Read more
Here is a useful historical study of the “Christian nation” question, The Founding Fathers and the Debate Over Religion in Revolutionary America: A History in Documents (OUP 2011), edited by Matthew L. Harris (Colorado State University-Pueblo) and Thomas S. Kidd (Baylor). The publisher’s description follows.
Whether America was founded as a Christian nation or as a secular republic is one of the most fiercely debated questions in American history. Historians Matthew Harris and Thomas Kidd offer an authoritative examination of the essential documents needed to understand this debate. The texts included in this volume – writings and speeches from both well-known and obscure early American thinkers – show that religion played a prominent yet fractious role in the era of the American Revolution.
In their personal beliefs, the Founders ranged from profound skeptics like Thomas Paine to traditional Christians like Patrick Henry. Nevertheless, most of the Founding Fathers rallied around certain crucial religious principles, including the idea that people were “created” equal, the belief that religious freedom required the disestablishment of state-backed denominations, the necessity of virtue in a republic, and the role of Providence in guiding the affairs of nations. Harris and Kidd show that through the struggles of war and the framing of the Constitution, Americans sought to reconcile their dedication to religious vitality with their commitment to religious freedom.