2012 Religious Legal Theory Conference Lectures Now Available

Lectures from the 2012 Legal Theory Conference – “The Competing Claims of Law and Religion” – are now available online in audio and video format.  Marc DeGirolami’s lecture, entitled “The Method of Tragedy and History Applied” is available here and Mark Movsesian’s lecture, entitled “Crosses and Culture: Public Religious Symbols in the U.S. and Europe” is available here (lecture begins at 35:15).

Rupke, “Religion in Republican Rome”

Here is a fascinating looking book by Jörg Rüpke (Erfurt), Religion in Republican Rome: Rationalization and Ritual Change (U. Penn. Press 2012).  The publisher’s description follows:

Roman religion as we know it is largely the product of the middle and late republic, the period falling roughly between the victory of Rome over its Latin allies in 338 B.C.E. and the attempt of the Italian peoples in the Social War to stop Roman domination, resulting in the victory of Rome over all of Italy in 89 B.C.E. This period witnessed the expansion and elaboration of large public rituals such as the games and the triumph as well as significant changes to Roman intellectual life, including the emergence of new media like the written calendar and new genres such as law, antiquarian writing, and philosophical discourse.

In Religion in Republican Rome Jörg Rüpke argues that religious change in the period is best understood as a process of rationalization: rules and principles were abstracted from practice, then made the object of a specialized discourse with its own rules of argument and institutional loci. Thus codified and elaborated, these then guided future conduct and elaboration. Rüpke concentrates on figures both famous and less well known, including Gnaeus Flavius, Ennius, Accius, Varro, Cicero, and Julius Caesar. He contextualizes the development of rational argument about religion and antiquarian systematization of religious practices with respect to two complex processes: Roman expansion in its manifold dimensions on the one hand and cultural exchange between Greece and Rome on the other.

Mishra on Law and Religion in Saudi Arabia

Abhinav Mishra (Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law) has posted Bridging the Gap between Religion and Law in Saudi Arabia. The abstract follows.

To associate Law with Religion is not particularly bad until it becomes the primary source of all principles used to govern the people of a state. Law must chance with the changing times and a Legal System overtly influenced by Religion prevents it from doing so. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to show out the key loopholes in the Saudi Arabian Legal System, point out why the lusterless system is still in action, propose a new model and show how it would be effective. Also, in this paper, possibilities of revolt and other such contemporary issues will be touched upon.

The limits and uses of law on religion

A few years ago, Sarah Barringer Gordon wrote a review of five books on law and religion where she argued that there was a scholarly divide between what was going on in the realm of religious studies and in the realm of legal, and particularly constitutional studies, when it comes to the field now known as “church and state.” In that piece, she wrote that much of American religious history has happened in courtrooms and because of that, religion scholars should pay attention to what lawyers are doing. While I agree that Supreme Court decisions, aside from their obvious normative effects, have largely shaped the prevailing public discourse about the proper place of religion in the public sphere (just think about the way and the frequency people brandish about the phrase “separation of church and state,” a phrase not found in the text of the Constitution)  in everyday debates involving religion, I also think that U.S. religious history has always been much bigger and broader than what the relatively modern jurisprudence on religious freedom has encapsulated.

It is bigger and broader in two dimensions: domestic and foreign. Two recent books address these. On the domestic side, an example is David Sehat’s book “The Myth of American Religious Freedom” which incidentally is the 2012 winner of the Frederick Jackson Turner award from the Organization of American Historians. In the book, Sehat argues that the Protestant moral establishment of the Founding period has never really disappeared in U.S. history, and in its contemporary incarnation, appears in the form of the Religious Right which persists in its claims for a religiously-based social order. On the foreign side, the book is Andrew Preston’s most recent work Sword of Spirit, Shield of Faith which is a grand narrative of the role of religion in the conduct of U.S. foreign relations from the Founding period to the present.  In both instances of historical work on the topic, the law, in the few instances that it appears, is at best, marginal and does not occupy center stage.

But the insights I want to draw from this goes beyond the desire to illustrate the limits of law. In fact, I want to make the opposite conclusion – law, even in the intermittent way it has regulated the exercise and practice of religious freedom throughout U.S. history, in particular – has profoundly shaped the terrain over which the political and social contestation could occur. This Read more

Mojave Desert Cross Case Settles

On Monday, a federal district court in California approved a settlement ending the long-running litigation in Salazar v. Buono, the Mojave Desert Cross case. The case, the most recent Supreme Court ruling on public religious displays, involves a Latin cross on a war memorial on federal land in the Mojave Desert. After a district court enjoined the government from displaying the cross as a violation of the Establishment Clause, the government attempted to convey the land to a private association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The district court ruled that the conveyance violated the terms of the injunction, but, in 2010, a divided Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further consideration.

This week’s settlement allows the government to convey the land to the VFW in exchange for other property. The National Park Service will install and maintain a fence with signage indicating that the land is privately owned and maintain roads allowing for “safe and suitable” public access. The government will not replace the cross, which someone stole after the Supreme Court’s decision, but the new owners are of course free to do so, and in fact, the VFW has a cross ready. The government will restore the plaque designating the spot as a national war memorial and has reserved the right to have Park Rangers explain to visitors what they’re looking at. H/T:  Religion Clause.

Report on the Colloquium in Law

Here is a story with some details on the Colloquium in Law seminar which Mark and I taught this past semester as part of the CLR’s activities.  The format was an experiment, and both Mark and I thought it worked very well.  Though the story does not quite say so, our students were really the stars of the course.