Ellis, Emon, & Glahn (eds.), “Islamic Law and International Human Rights Law”

In September, Oxford University Press will publish Islamic Law and International Human Rights Law edited by Mark S. Ellis (Executive Director, International Bar Association), Anver M. Emon, (University of Toronto Faculty of Law), and Benjamin Glahn (Former Program Director, Salzburg Global Seminar). The publisher’s description follows.

The relationship between Islamic law and international human rights law has been the subject of considerable, and heated, debate in recent years. The usual starting point has been to test one system by the standards of the other, asking is Islamic law ‘compatible’ with international human rights standards, or vice versa. This approach quickly ends in acrimony and accusations of misunderstanding. By overlaying one set of norms on another we overlook the deeply contextual nature of how legal rules operate in a society, and meaningful comparison and discussion is impossible. Read more

Koppelman, “Defending American Religious Neutrality”

This November, Harvard University Press will release Defending American Religious Neutrality by Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern University School of Law). The publisher’s description follows.

Although it is often charged with hostility toward religion, First Amendment doctrine in fact treats religion as a distinctive human good. It insists, however, that this good be understood abstractly, without the state taking sides on any theological question. Here, a leading scholar of constitutional law explains the logic of this uniquely American form of neutrality—more religion-centered than liberal theorists propose, and less overtly theistic than conservatives advocate.

The First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion is under threat. Growing numbers of critics, including a near-majority of the Supreme Court, seem ready to cast aside the ideal of American religious neutrality. Andrew Koppelman defends that ideal and explains why protecting religion from political manipulation is imperative in an America of growing religious diversity. Read more

When it comes to religion, everybody’s an expert

A phenomenon I’ve noticed increasingly of late is the tendency of individuals to opine on particularly weighty religious matters despite their rather extreme ignorance regarding these very same matters.  I’ve seen this regularly on Facebook, but even on more formal occasions – such as commencement addresses.

Indeed, the phenomenon extends to (and, in fact, is commonly manifested by) statements made by non-Christians regarding questions of Christian belief and practice.

As I would not opine seriously on the best procedures to follow with respect to open-heart surgery (as I have absolutely no medical training), why are so many others who have never had anything to do with religion so quick to comment on serious matters of religion?

Read more

The Vatican Secret Archives

Yesterday, Mark, our dean Michael Simons, and I went to the Capitoline Museums in Rome.  The Capitoline is one of the most famous of Rome’s museums, but we actually spent most of our time at the absolutely incredible exhibition of the Vatican Secret Archives (there was an amusing note explaining that in Italian “segreto” just means “private,” not “secret”…but they felt pretty secret to me).  For those interested in law and religion, you really couldn’t ask for a more exciting exhibit.

Among the many highlights:

  • The Dictatus Papae of Pope Gregory VII
  • A petition from many members of the House of Lords asking Pope Clement VII to grant Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, to which they attached their individual seals
  • Leo X’s papal bull excommunicating Luther, and Charles V’s corresponding imperial edict divesting Luther of any civil protection
  • A surprisingly obsequious letter by Voltaire to Pope Benedict XIV telling him in ornate terms how great he was (in fact, he was pretty great)

I surreptitiously (‘segretamente’) took a few pictures of some additional documents of special relevance, which I’ll put up when I get back.

Rome Conference: State-Sponsored Religious Displays

Marc and I are in Rome this week, where CLR is co-hosting, along with the Libera Universita Maria SS. Assunta (LUMSA), an international conference, “State-Sponsored Religious Displays in the US and Europe.” The conference, which takes place tomorrow at LUMSA’s main campus in the Borgo, addresses the treatment of religious displays in different legal systems, focusing on recent cases like Salazar v. Buono in the US Supreme Court and Lautsi v. Italy in the European Court of Human Rights. We have a great lineup of speakers, including Tom Berg, Cole Durham, Silvio Ferrari, and Ninth Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain. Details are here. CLR Forum readers in Rome, stop by and say hello.