In December, Brandeis University Press will publish an anthology entitled, Gender, Religion, and Family Law: Theorizing Conflicts between Women’s Rights and Cultural Traditions (BUP Dec. 2012) edited by Lisa Fishbayn Joffe (Brandeis) & Sylvia Neil (Chicago Law School). The publisher’s description follows:
In many regions of the world, women’s rights are at the heart of tensions between a commitment to tolerance of religious diversity, enshrined in civil laws, and respect for the rights of the individual, as understood within particularistic religious or cultural custom. These conflicts present pressing challenges for theorists, lawyers, and policymakers. This anthology brings together leading scholars and activists in Jewish, Muslim, and Christian law, and African customary law, who interrogate the utility of recent theoretical models, explore contextual differences, and analyze and celebrate stories of successful initiatives that have transformed legal and cultural norms.
Nelson Tebbe (Brooklyn Law School) has posted Government Endorsement and Disparagement. The abstract follows.
What are the constitutional limits on government endorsement? Recently, a sense has been spreading that when the government speaks on its own account, it faces few restrictions. That impression has been fed by two doctrines and their accompanying literatures. First, the Court’s cases developing the government speech doctrine have implied that the only constitutional restriction on government expression is the Establishment Clause, and scholars have adopted that assumption. Officials cannot endorse, say, Christianity, but otherwise they enjoy wide latitude to promote democracy or denigrate smoking. Second, experts on religious freedom likewise have assumed that there is no secular Establishment Clause. So the belief that government is free to endorse and denigrate secular ideas is common, thanks in part to the Supreme Court and in part to scholarship on free speech and religious freedom. But it is mistaken. In this Article, I argue that in fact the Constitution properly limits government endorsement through multiple provisions. I give examples of situations where official expression runs up against such limitations, including racialized speech, electioneering, same-sex marriage exclusions, political gerrymandering, and messages concerning reproductive decisions. Limits in these areas are grounded in equal protection, due process, and free speech itself. Together, my examples suggest a constitutional theme, government nondisparagement, that has been overlooked. Drawing out that theme, I suggest new contributions to theoretical debates surrounding political morality, free speech, and religious freedom.
Jonathan Haidt has been doing extremely interesting work at the intersection of psychology, ethics, politics, and sociology. That is in part why I am very much looking forward to reading his recently published book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Random House 2012). The publisher’s description follows.
Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens? In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding.
His starting point is moral intuition—the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right. He blends his own research findings with those of anthropologists, historians, and other psychologists to draw a map of the moral domain, and he explains why conservatives can navigate that map more skillfully than can liberals. He then examines the origins of morality, overturning the view that evolution made us fundamentally selfish creatures. But rather than arguing that we are innately altruistic, he makes a more subtle claim—that we are fundamentally groupish. It is our groupishness, he explains, that leads to our greatest joys, our religious divisions, and our political affiliations. In a stunning final chapter on ideology and civility, Haidt shows what each side is right about, and why we need the insights of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians to flourish as a nation.
A few weeks ago, I noted an essay by Estonian president Toomas Ilves hinting that religion may have something to do with Europe’s inability to agree on a solution to its fiscal crisis. Thrifty, rule-abiding Northern Protestants, Ilves suggested, do not like the idea of sending money to profligate Southern Catholics who think the rules about not spending what you don’t have don’t apply to them. Here’s another essay, by Harvard historian Steven Ozment, arguing that the roots of Northern unwillingness to bankroll the South lie in the Protestant Reformation. Germany’s refusal to agree to eurobonds, Ozment writes, reflects the Lutheranism that, notwithstanding “the forces of multiculturalism and secularism,” still informs German culture:
How little has changed in 500 years. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, a born-and-baptized daughter of an East German Lutheran pastor, clearly believes the age-old moral virtues and remedies are the best medicine for the euro crisis. She has no desire to press a Read more
As everyone who studies international human rights knows, the Catholic and, more widely, Christian tradition had a large impact on the Universal Declaration of 1948. In the last few decades, however, as issues of sexuality have come to dominate the human rights agenda, a gap has opened between the Catholic Church and many human rights advocates. Alex Bruce, a faculty member at the Australian National University (and a Buddhist monk) addresses that gap in a new piece he has posted on SSRN, Cognitive Dissonance: The Catholic Church and International Human Rights Law Discourse. The abstract follows.
On 10 December 2008, the world celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (‘the UDHR’). A formative influence on the UDHR was the Catholic social justice tradition and during his long pontificate, John Paul II described the UDHR as ‘one of the highest expressions of the human conscience of our time.’ John Paul II was repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his emphasis on the importance of human rights.
However, after his death in April 2005, commentators began a concerted attack on the human rights record of the Church generally and John Paul II particularly. John Paul II had allegedly ‘waged a ceaseless war against human rights’, and had done ‘more to spread AIDS in Africa than prostitution and the trucking industry combined’. These attacks were deeply ironic given John Paul II’s consistently expressed fear that the liberal western democracies of North America and Western Europe were incubating a ‘culture of death’.
This article investigates the immense gap between these two positions by demonstrating how extreme cognitive dissonance has developed in characterising the contribution of the Church generally and John Paul II particularly to international human rights discourse. It will examine how critics are attempting to Read more
Each year the American Bar Association Journal compiles a list of the 100 best legal blogs, and invites blog readers to use the form at this link:
to tell us about a blawg—not your own—that you read regularly and think other lawyers should know about. Or if you don’t have particular blawgs in mind but think blawgs from certain practice areas should be represented in the Blawg 100, you can use this form to let us know which ones. If there is more than one blawg you want to support, feel free to send us additional amici through the form. We may include some of the best comments in our Blawg 100 coverage. But keep your remarks pithy—you have a 500-character limit. Friend-of-the-blawg briefs are due no later than Sept. 7, 2012.
CLR Forum is a relatively new blog — we just passed our 1 year anniversary on August 11 (insert tooting horn noise). But in that year we’ve worked to bring — and greatly enjoyed bringing — our readers a range of scholarly, doctrinal, and cultural stories about law and religion issues in the United States and abroad. Our readership has grown from a few dozen folks to an average of a few hundred per day, for which we are very grateful. We invite any readers who think our blog belongs in the top 100, or who have a different favorite legal blog, to participate in the ABA’s selection process.
Thanks for reading, and here’s to the beginning of a new year.