Shemtob on the Religious Composition of the Supreme Court

Zachary Baron Shemtob (Central Connecticut State University) has posted The Catholic and Jewish Court: Explaining the Absence of Protestants on the Nation’s Highest Judicial Body. The abstract follows.

Following the 2006 retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor and the confirmation of Samuel Alito to succeed her, Roman Catholics formed a majority on the United States Supreme Court for the first time in this institution’s 210-year history. This Catholic majority was further strengthened by the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor in 2009. By the time of Elena Kagan’s first case in October of 2010, not a single Protestant sat on the nation’s highest judicial body.

By way of comparison, in 1960 the Court consisted of seven Protestants, one Catholic and one Jew; in 1985, eight Protestants and one Catholic sat on the Court. This phenomenon is further reflected in judicial appointments. Since 1985, only one Protestant has been appointed, Justice David Souter, compared to seven Catholics and three Jews. The prima facie reason for this transformation is simple: President Reagan began the Protestant erosion by appointing two Catholics; George H.W. Bush followed by appointing a Catholic; and Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama chose only Jewish and Catholic nominees. The deeper reasons, which are considerably more complex, are the focus of this article.

Philpott, “Just and Unjust Peace”

Next month, Oxford University Press will publish Just and Unjust Peace: An Ethic of Political Reconciliation (OUP May 2012) by Daniel Philpott (Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows.

In the wake of massive injustice, how can justice be achieved and peace restored? Is it possible to find a universal standard that will work for people of diverse and often conflicting religious, cultural, and philosophical backgrounds?

In Just and Unjust Peace, Daniel Philpott offers an innovative and hopeful response to these questions. He challenges the approach to peace-building that dominates the United Nations, western governments, and the human rights community. While he shares their commitments to human rights and democracy, Philpott argues that these values alone cannot redress the wounds caused by war, genocide, and dictatorship. Both justice and the effective restoration of political order call for a more holistic, restorative approach. Philpott answers that call by proposing a form of political reconciliation that is deeply rooted in three religious traditions–Christianity, Islam, and Judaism–as well as the restorative justice movement. These traditions offer the fullest expressions of the core concepts of justice, mercy, and peace. By adapting these ancient concepts to modern constitutional democracy and international norms, Philpott crafts an ethic that has widespread appeal and offers real hope for the restoration of justice in fractured communities. From the roots of these traditions, Philpott develops six practices–building just institutions and relations between states, acknowledgment, reparations, restorative punishment, apology and, most important, forgiveness–which he then applies to real cases, identifying how each practice redresses a unique set of wounds. Read more

Me Next Week

Just a little note on a couple of talks I am giving next week, in case CLR Forum readers have a chance to stop by and say hello.

On Wednesday, April 18, I’ll be participating in a panel at Yale Law School run by the Yale Catholic Law Students’ Association dealing with the HHS Mandate and Religious Liberty.  The discussion begins at 6:00.  More details about the event here.

On Friday, April 20, I’ll be at the University of St. Thomas under the auspices of the Terence J. Murphy Institute’s Hot Topics: Cool Talk program run by the gracious Lisa Schiltz.  The Honorable Richard Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York will be joining me.  I’ll be talking about the state of punishment theory and will discuss (a little bit) some of the insights of Sir James Fitzjames Stephen and Thomas Aquinas with respect to the justification of punishment (I hope to give a cool talk, but the odds are not so good).  Details here.

Catholic Bishops Issue Report on Threats to Religious Freedom

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops today issued a report, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty, on threats to religious freedom  in America and abroad. The report lists several recent actions by the federal and state governments that endanger religious freedom — including the HHS contraception mandate, state laws that forbid assistance to illegal aliens, and moves by public universities to deny recognition to evangelical groups on campus — and discusses the persecution  suffered by religious minorities, often Christians, in other parts of the world. The report calls on clergy and lay Catholics, as well as adherents of other faiths, “to impress upon our elected representatives the importance of continued protection of religious liberty in a free society.” In particular, the report proposes that Catholic bishops in America organize a “fortnight for freedom” this summer, a fourteen-day “period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action [to] emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty.”

Oakley on the Reshaping of Ancient Political Inheritance

This month, Yale University Press publishes The Mortgage of the Past: Reshaping the Ancient Political Inheritance (1o50–1300), by Francis Oakley, President Emeritus of Williams College.  The volume is part of a three part series on the emergence of a secular from a religious socio-political worldview during the Middle Ages.   In this book, Oakley explores the confluence of secular and religious forces in the Middle Ages that shaped the transformation from a political conception of (1) a divine procession from king to heir to (2) a more secular understanding of the procession from ruler to ruler.

Please follow the jump for the publisher’s description. Read more

Ashe on Women, Religion, & American Law

Marie Ashe, Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School, will publish Women’s Wrongs, Religions’ Rights: Women, Free Exercise, and Establishment in American Law.  Please see the abstract below:

 This article provides an historical examination of American Constitutional law concerning religion as it has evolved through three periods: the Mormon period of the late nineteenth century; the religious pluralism period of post-WW2 decades; and the multiculturalism period that began around 1990 and that remains underway. It examines Supreme Court interpretations of First Amendment provisions pertaining to religion, and it contextualizes those interpretations to explore their implications for women’s liberty and equality at each of the three periods. Its argument is that Constitutional doctrine relating to religion – through its multiple doctrinal reversals – has consistently entailed and depended upon negative constructions of women, sacrificing women’s liberty and equality interests in order to prefer and to cultivate the liberty and equality interests of churches.