Religious Exceptions and the NJ “Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act”

The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that the NJ State Assembly has enough votes to pass a proposed same-sex marriage bill. The Assembly will officially vote on the bill on February 16, three days after the Senate takes up the bill. Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly promised to veto any same-sex marriage legislation and has instead urged a referendum on the issue.

As I noted in a previous post, exceptions for religious groups have been a prerequisite to the passing of same-sex marriage legislation in other states, most notably New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. These exceptions have focused on two areas. First, they allow clergy to refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages and prevent both state action (i.e. penalizing or withholding benefits) and individual causes of action resulting from such refusal. Second, these exceptions allow a religious organization, like Catholic Charities, to “tak[e] … action … calculated … to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained.” Arguably, this language would allow a foster care service, run by Catholic Charities, to refuse to place children with same-sex couples, a scenario that has become a kind of litmus test on the strength of religious exceptions to same-sex marriage laws.

With this in mind, it is surprising that there has not been more press coverage about the NJ law’s religious exceptions. Read more

What We Get When We Talk About Religion and Politics

I found this piece by Frank Bruni in Saturday’s New York Times to be interesting in several respects.  One of Bruni’s claims is that we have not yet really tried to explain the various character flaws and other personality quirks that we (by which I mean the Times writers) see in Mitt Romney by reference to his religious background.  It is important that we do this, says Bruni.  So, for example, we should try to understand Romney’s “muffled soul” by engaging in some extended religious psychology about Mormonism.  Here’s a bit from Bruni:

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Langton et al., “Islamic Economics and Finance: A European Perspective”

From Palgrave Macmillian, a new work on applying Islamic finance in the European context, Islamic Economics and Finance: A European Perspective (Jonathan Langton, Cristina Trullols and Abdullah Q. Turkistani eds. 2011). The authors suggest that the global financial crisis has led to an interest in alternative economic models, including the Islamic, with its emphasis on business ethics. The publisher’s description follows:

The global economic crisis has driven many economists around the world to seek alternative solutions to the western capitalist model which has proven to have some shortcomings. One prominent area of that research has been Islamic Economics and Finance. Based on the Muslim teachings of shari’ah, this system differs significantly from conventional economics and finance, notably in the prohibition of interest and strong emphasis on moral ethics.

In June 2010, IE Business School, with King Abdulaziz University, gathered in Madrid some of the world’s foremost scholars, academics and practitioners of Islamic Economics and Finance to discuss how this alternative philosophy can be applied in western financial markets. This collection of highlights from that conference and original articles, specifically addresses the post-crisis application, as well as the Legal and Tax Implications, of this growing and relevant economic philosophy in Europe, including in the area of Project Financing.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on “The War on Christians”

In this week’s Newsweek, human rights activist and commentator Ayaan Hirsi Ali documents the persecution directed at Christians in many Muslim-majority countries, often with state support, or at least indifference. She argues that concern with appearing “Islamophobic” has caused Western governments and media to avoid covering the crisis, and that Western governments must “get their priorities straight” and tie foreign aid to recipients’ willingness to protect the rights of Christians and other religious minorities. (For reasons CLR Forum has discussed, it’s not clear that Western pressure would actually help Christians living in Muslim-majority countries, who are vulnerable to the charge of being Western agents). Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim and present atheist, is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Strang & Breen on Catholic Legal Education at the Middle of the Twentieth Century

Lee J. Strang (U. of Toledo College of Law) and John M. Breen (Loyola U. Chicago School of Law) have posted The Road Not Taken: Catholic Legal Education at the Middle of the Twentieth Century. This article dovetails nicely with Ashley Berner’s recent article on the CLR Forum, Education and Belief: Ontology.  The abstract  for Strang and Breen’s article follows.

The Road Not Taken describes the history and animating themes of American Catholic legal education. The heart of The Road Not Taken is a now forgotten episode in the history of American legal education. In the late 1930s, a number of leading Catholic legal scholars issued a call for reform — a proposal which urged Catholic law schools to educate in a manner distinctive from their non-Catholic peers. While open to students from diverse faith backgrounds, the proponents of this reform argued that teaching and scholarship at Catholic law schools should be grounded in the Catholic intellectual tradition. As we demonstrate, however, this call for reform went unanswered. Had it succeeded, it could have profoundly changed both the landscape of legal education and the face of the legal profession.

In this Article, we accomplish three goals. First, we describe the founding and early years of Catholic legal education. Second, we detail the national effort to reform Catholic legal education that began in the 1930s and which was driven, in large measure, by the rise of Legal Realism at home and the threat of totalitarianism abroad. Third, we explore the social, institutional, and historical reasons that explain why the reform effort failed.

Gedicks on Defending Establishment Clause Incorporation

Frederick Mark Gedicks (BYU – J. Reuben Clark Law School) has posted Establishment Clause Incorporation: A Logical, Textual, and Historical Defense. The abstract follows.

Incorporation of the Establishment Clause against the states is logically and textually impossible — so say most academics, many lower-court judges, and a Supreme Court justice. They maintain that because the Clause was originally understood as a mere structural protection of state power, it cannot coherently restrain state power or protect a personal due process liberty as required for incorporation. Anti-incorporationists also seem to think that the purported incoherence and textual inconsistency of Establishment Clause incorporation excuse serious engagement of Reconstruction history, since they ignore it except for the irrelevant Blaine Amendment defeated as the Reconstruction era ended.

If anti-incorporation critics are right, the entire body of Establishment Clause doctrine is doomed: Nearly every Supreme Court decision interpreting the Clause has involved a challenge to state action. Establishment Clause doctrine thus cries out for an account of its incorporation against the states that is both logically coherent and consistent with the liberty-protecting text of the 14th Amendment. Read more

Frankopan, “The First Crusade”

Peter Frankopan (Oxford) offers an unexpected historical account in The First Crusade: The Call From the East (HUP 2012) which emphasizes the eastern causes of the conflict.  The publisher’s description follows.

According to tradition, the First Crusade began at the instigation of Pope Urban II and culminated in July 1099, when thousands of western European knights liberated Jerusalem from the rising menace of Islam. But what if the First Crusade’s real catalyst lay far to the east of Rome? In this groundbreaking book, countering nearly a millennium of scholarship, Peter Frankopan reveals the untold history of the First Crusade.

Nearly all historians of the First Crusade focus on the papacy and its willing warriors in the West, along with innumerable popular tales of bravery, tragedy, and resilience. In sharp contrast, Frankopan examines events from the East, in particular from Constantinople, seat of the Christian Byzantine Empire. The result is revelatory. The true instigator of the First Crusade, we see, was the Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, who in 1095, with his realm under siege from the Turks and on the point of collapse, begged the pope for military support.

Basing his account on long-ignored eastern sources, Frankopan also gives a provocative and highly original explanation of the world-changing events that followed the First Crusade. The Vatican’s victory cemented papal power, while Constantinople, the heart of the still-vital Byzantine empire, never recovered. As a result, both Alexios and Byzantium were consigned to the margins of history. From Frankopan’s revolutionary work, we gain a more faithful understanding of the way the taking of Jerusalem set the stage for western Europe’s dominance up to the present day and shaped the modern world.