New Feature: “Conversations”

Next week, we’ll introduce a new feature here on CLR Forum, “Conversations.” As the name suggests, “Conversations” will be a venue for in-depth discussions on law and religion with scholars, journalists, judges and other public figures.  We’ll cover books, articles, cases, and news items. Marc and I may throw in our own opinions, too, from time to time. Look for the first in the series on Monday.

USD Starts Law & Religion Institute

The University of San Diego School of Law has started a new Institute for Law and Religion, directed by Steve Smith, who’s blogging with us this summer, and Larry Alexander. Their first event will be a conference, “Freedom of the Church in the Modern Era,” scheduled for October. Details are on the institute’s website, here. Best Wishes to our colleagues at San Diego for this exciting new endeavor.

The Dis-integration of Neutrality

Neutrality has been the central theme in the modern jurisprudence and literature of religious freedom.  Government is supposed to be religiously neutral, neither favoring nor opposing (coercively, materially, or expressively) any particular religion or religion in general.

The ideal has also been subjected to severe criticism.  One criticism asserts that neutrality is impossible: governments will inevitably adopt some religious (or anti-religious) positions and reject others.  Indeed, since religious views differ as to the acceptability of governmental neutrality, the very endorsement of neutrality is already a departure from neutrality.

One response to this sort of criticism is to “spread out”– or to multiply versions of neutrality.  Like the sorcerer’s hapless apprentice, the critic applies the hatchet to what he takes to be the mischievous broom of neutrality only to find that, far from having dispatched the mischief, he is now faced with two– or several, or many– more vigorous instantiations.

Thus, in a recent illuminating article called “Crosses and Culture” (I would provide a link if I knew how), Mark Movsesian discerns in American jurisprudence three versions of neutrality, which he calls “neutrality as non-proselytism,” “neutrality as non- Read more