Mormonism & the Republican Primaries: LDS & the Romney Family History

On January 17, HarperCollins released The Real Romney, a new biography of the sometime Republican primary front-runner by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, whose research adds an interesting supplement to Laurie Goodstein’s recent article in the New York Times (see the CLR discussion of Goodstein’s article here).  The Real Romney pays significant attention to the Romney family’s foundational role in the Latter Day Saint Movement.  In a January 19 interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Kranish stated that he and Helman focused on Romney’s “ancestral story . . . because through that story [one] can really understand the story of Mormon[ism]”;  and, according to Kranish, Romney’s family history is one “intertwined” with “Mormon life.”  (If nothing else, the Fresh Air interview is, in itself, fascinating.)

Kranish and Helman reveal that the Romney family was acquainted with Joseph Smith and Brigham Young in the early days of the LDS Movement, founded a new Mormon community in Mexico, practiced polygamy in the nineteenth century, and advocated for progressive reforms within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints during the twentieth century.

For more on Kranish and Helman’s take on the Romney family and its continuing and significant involvement with the LDS movement, please follow the jump. Read more

Washington Post on Contraceptive Coverage

Here’s a bit of surprise: the Washington Post has come out against the Obama Administration’s decision to require religiously-affiliated employers  to cover contraceptives, including abortifacient drugs, in their health-insurance plans:

The best approach would have been for HHS to stick to its original conclusion that contraception coverage should generally be required but to expand the scope of its proposed exemption for religiously affiliated employers who claim covering contraception would violate their religious views. The administration’s feint at a compromise — giving such employers another year to figure out how to comply with the requirement — is unproductive can-kicking that fails to address the fundamental problem of requiring religiously affiliated entities to spend their own money in a way that contradicts the tenets of their faith. . . .

[T]he significance of the new health-care law is that the federal government will for the first time require all employers to provide insurance coverage for their workers — in other words, to spend their own money to help underwrite this coverage — or, in many cases, to pay a penalty. In this circumstance, requiring a religiously affiliated employer to spend its own money in a way that violates its religious principles does not make an adequate accommodation for those deeply held views. Having recognized the principle of a religious exemption, the administration should have expanded it.

Can the State Order a Church to “De-Baptize” Someone?

Here’s a puzzling story. According to the Washington Post, a civil court in France has ordered the Catholic Church to remove a disgruntled parishioner from the baptismal register. The parishioner sought the court order after the Church declined to comply with his request to “de-baptize” him:

A decade ago, Rene Lebouvier requested that his local Catholic church erase his name from the baptismal register. The church noted his demands on the margins of its records and the chapter was closed.

But the clergy abuse scandals rocking Europe, coupled with Pope Benedict XVI’s conservative stances on contraception, hardened Lebouvier’s views. Last October, a court in Normandy ruled in favor of his lawsuit to have his name permanently deleted from church records — making the 71-year-old retiree the first Frenchman to be officially “de-baptized.”

“I took the judicial route to get myself de-baptized because of the church’s excesses,” said Lebouvier, speaking by telephone from his village of Fleury, near the D-Day beaches.

The Post article does not say what the cause of action was, or why the civil court believed it had jurisdiction of such matters. It seems baffling. In some European countries, like Germany, church membership has civil law consequences — church members are liable for a “church tax” the government collects on behalf of the religious body.  So I could see why  German courts would have authority to determine who is or is not a church member for tax purposes — though it’s not clear the court’s determination could bind the church itself, without the church’s consent. No such “church tax” exists in France, though. So why is a civil court getting involved? H/T: Mirror of Justice

New Podcast Series: Dialogues on Law and Justice

Here’s an interesting new podcast series: Dialogues on Law and Justice. The series is produced by Mars Hill Audio, an independent organization in the Reformed/Calvinist tradition that seeks to engage contemporary culture. So far, the series has included interviews with a number of prominent scholars, including Carl Esbeck (Missouri) on Hosanna-Tabor, John Witte (Emory) on the relationship between secular and religious jurisprudence, Michael McConnell (Stanford) on the Court’s reduction of First Amendment claims to free speech claims, and Robert George (Princeton) on marriage. This looks to be a great resource.

The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History

Out next month from Columbia University Press: The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History (Harvey & Blum eds.). The publisher’s description follows.

The first guide to American religious history from colonial times to the present, this anthology features twenty-two leading scholars speaking on major themes and topics in the development of the diverse religious traditions of the United States. These include the growth and spread of evangelical culture, the mutual influence of religion and politics, the rise of fundamentalism, the role of gender and popular culture, and the problems and possibilities of pluralism. Geared toward general readers, students, researchers, and scholars, The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History provides concise yet broad surveys of specific fields, with an extensive glossary and bibliographies listing relevant books, films, articles, music, and media resources for navigating different streams of religious thought and culture.

The collection opens with a thematic exploration of American religious history and culture and follows with twenty topical chapters, each of which illuminates the dominant questions and lines of inquiry that have determined scholarship within that chapter’s chosen theme. Contributors also outline areas in need of further, more sophisticated study and identify critical resources for additional research. The glossary, “American Religious History, A–Z,” lists crucial people, movements, groups, concepts, and historical events, enhanced by extensive statistical data.

Brekke, “Fundamentalism”

A new book about the nature of religious fundamentalism and, in part, its connection to law, Fundamentalism: Prophecy and Protest in an Age of Globalization (Cambridge University Press 2011), by Torkel Brekke (University of Oslo).  The publisher’s description follows.

This book investigates the origins of fundamentalism, outlining its characteristics and the history of key fundamentalist movements around the world, considering examples from Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. The book argues that fundamentalism develops when modern lay religious leaders challenge the authority of secular states and traditional religious establishments. These new leaders and their followers seek to infuse religious values and practices into all spheres, especially law, politics, education, and science. The patterns of religious authority and leadership that characterize fundamentalism have their roots in a Christian context but were globalized through intense intercultural contacts after the mid-nineteenth century. Fundamentalism is a thoroughly modern and global phenomenon because it presupposes the globalization of ideas and practices concerning religious leadership and organization, as well as universal changes in the relationship of religion to modern societies and states.