Purohit, “The Aga Khan Case”

This September, Harvard University Press will publish The Aga Khan Case: Religion and Identity in Colonial India by Teena Purohit (Boston University). The publisher’s description follows.

An overwhelmingly Arab-centric perspective dominates the West’s understanding of Islam and leads to a view of this religion as exclusively Middle Eastern and monolithic. Teena Purohit presses for a reorientation that would conceptualize Islam instead as a heterogeneous religion that has found a variety of expressions in local contexts throughout history. The story she tells of an Ismaili community in colonial India illustrates how much more complex Muslim identity is, and always has been, than the media would have us believe. Read more

Ahdar & Leigh, “Religious Freedom in the Liberal State”

This December, Oxford University Press will publish the second edition of Religious Freedom in the Liberal State by Rex Ahdar (University of Otago Faculty of Law) and Ian Leigh (University of Durham, Durham Law School). The publisher’s description follows.

Examining the law and public policy relating to religious liberty in Western liberal democracies, this book contains a detailed analysis of the history, rationale, scope, and limits of religious freedom from (but not restricted to) an evangelical Christian perspective. Focussing on United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and EU, it studies the interaction between law and religion at several different levels, looking at the key debates that have arisen.

Divided into three parts, the book begins by contrasting the liberal and Christian rationales for and understandings of religious freedom. It then explores central thematic issues: the types of constitutional frameworks within which any right to religious exercise must operate; the varieties of paradigmatic relationships between organized religion and the state; the meaning of ‘religion’; the limitations upon individual and institutional religious behaviour; and the domestic and international legal mechanisms that have evolved to address religious conduct. The final part explores key subject areas where current religious freedom controversies have arisen: employment; education; parental rights and childrearing; controls on pro-religious and anti-religious expression; medical treatment; and religious group (church) autonomy.

This new edition is fully updated with the growing case law in the area, and features increased coverage of Islam and the flashpoint debates surrounding the accommodation of Muslim beliefs and practices in Anglophone nations.

First Things on the Destruction of Khachkars

First Things’s always worthwhile  On the Square blog has an interesting post on the destruction of Armenian carved stone crosses, or khachkars, in Turkey and Azerbaijan. The khachkar (literally, “cross-stone”) is a traditional Armenian art form; an analogue would be the familiar Celtic high cross. Crosses have a central place in Armenian Christian iconography, and khachkars, which can reach a few feet in height, dot the landscape in Armenia and in other places where Armenians have lived. Khachkars appear in cemeteries, in church courtyards, in homes, on roadsides; really,  anywhere.

Two years ago, UNESCO added the art of khachkar carving to the list of intangible cultural heritage meriting special protection in international law. As the First Things post makes clear, however, Turkey and Azerbaijan have undertaken to destroy khachkars that exist in those countries:

The last of the largest collections of khachkars, the Armenian Cemetery in Jugha in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, was purposefully annihilated in 2005 after several years of intermittent Read more

DC Court of Appeals: Ministerial Exception Does Not Bar Minister’s Breach of Contract Suit Against Church

Here’s a reminder that, even after Hosanna-Tabor, the ministerial exception does not bar all lawsuits clergy bring against church employers. The DC Court of Appeals has allowed a minister’s breach of contract claim against her former congregation to go forward, notwithstanding the congregation’s claim of immunity. The Rev. Deloris Prioleau, an ordained AME pastor, had a series of one-year employment contracts with the Cornerstone AME Church in DC. When Cornerstone failed to pay Prioleau $39,000 it owed her on her final contract, she brought a breach of contract action. Last week, the DC Court of Appeals ruled that the action could proceed under the “neutral principles of law” approach. Prioleau’s suit, the court said, appeared to be “a straightforward contract case, uncomplicated by ecclesiastical considerations.” Moreover, the ministerial exception did not apply. Prioleau had not challenged Cornerstone’s “authority to hire, to fire, or to assign her duties” and did not seek “reinstatement.” (Oddly, the court did not discuss Hosanna-Tabor itself). The court ended its opinion with a warning, however:  “if it becomes apparent … that this dispute does in fact turn on matters of doctrinal interpretation or of church governance, the trial court may grant summary judgment to avoid ‘excessive entanglement with religion.'” The case is Second Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Prioleau, 2012 WL 3243190 (D.C. Court of Appeals, Aug. 9, 2012).