At CNN, it is reported that the Democratic Party has updated its platform to include specific reference to Jerusalem and God, which (and who) had to this point been excluded for the first time in Platform History. Apparently the President “himself intervened” to get Jerusalem added, but it does not appear that God received similarly direct presidential intercession. No matter: Ohio Governor and Democratic Party Platform Committee Chairman Ted Strickland rose to the occasion and had some nice things to say about God to boot.
Here’s an important new paper, Religion and the Equal Protection Clause, arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment independently forbids state action that discriminates on the basis of religion, even without incorporation of the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses. Steve Calabresi (Northwestern) and a student co-author defend this novel claim by looking to the Fourteenth Amendment’s original meaning. They also reference trends in foreign constitutional and international human rights law. (Originalism and comparative constitutionalism – there’s an unusual combination). The wide-ranging and provocative paper also argues that public education, as currently funded, is unconstitutional. Here’s the abstract:
This article argues that state action that discriminates on the basis of religion is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Doctrine even if it does not violate the Establishment Clause or the Free Exercise Clause as incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment. State action that discriminates on the basis of religion should be subject to strict scrutiny and should almost always be held unconstitutional. We thus challenge the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez in which a 5 to 4 majority of the Court wrongly allowed a California state school to discriminate against a Christian Legal Society chapter on the basis of religion. We defend our argument that the Fourteenth Amendment bans Read more
This November, Baker Publishing Group will publish The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World by Daniel M. Bell (Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary). The publisher’s description follows.
In this addition to the award-winning Church and Postmodern Culture series, Daniel Bell compares and contrasts capitalism and Christianity, showing how Christianity provides resources for faithfully navigating the postmodern global economy. He approaches capitalism and Christianity as alternative visions of humanity, God, and the good life. Considering faith and economics in terms of how desire is shaped, he casts the conflict as one between different disciplines of desire.
Bell engages the work of two important postmodern philosophers, Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, to illuminate the nature of the postmodern world that the church currently inhabits. He considers how the global economy deforms desire in a manner that distorts human relations with God and one another. In contrast, he presents Christianity and the tradition of the works of mercy as a way beyond capitalism and socialism, beyond philanthropy and welfare. Christianity heals desire, renewing human relations and enabling communion with God. This book will work well for courses in theology and ethics, philosophical theology, discipleship, and Christianity and culture. Pastors and church leaders will also find it enlightening.
This October, the Continuum International Publishing Group will publish Triple Jeopardy for the West: Aggressive Secularism, Radical Islamism and Multiculturalism by Michael Nazir-Ali (President of OXTRAD and former Bishop of Rochester, U.K.). The publisher’s description follows.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali considers the impact that aggressive secularism, radical Islamism and multiculturalism are having on the Western world, and particularly Britain. He argues that, in their rejection of the Judeo-Christian foundations which have shaped so much of the national narrative, these three seemingly diverse pressures are threatening British life. Considering their impact on society, religion, science and politics, he asserts that it would be foolish and premature to give up on the Christian foundations which may make the achievement of the equality, justice and freedom sought in these areas possible.
Perhaps not centrally related to law and religion (though not disconnected from it either), but here is my review of Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III’s book, Cosmic Constitutional Theory: Why Americans Are Losing Their Inalienable Right to Self-Governance, over at The New Republic. I have the rough sense that my take is generally more positive than what I’ve seen from other legal academics and commentators, but perhaps you will let me know.
The first major nationwide battle over church and state didn’t take place when the First Amendment was adopted. It happened decades later in the 1830s, and it involved the agency employing 75% of the U.S. government’s civilian workforce – the Post Office. Congress required mail delivery seven days a week, and a coalition of prominent Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Baptist and other churches led the charge to make sure that the nation (in their view, a Christian nation) lived up to its obligations under the 4th Commandment. Richard John’s beautifully written, Spreading the News (1995), tells the story brilliantly.
The Sabbatarian side can best be found in Jasper Adam’s essay, “On the relation of Christianity to civil governments,” found in Daniel Dreisbach’s excellent, Religion and Politics in the Early Republic: Jasper Adams and the Church-State Debate (1996): In light of the “close relation between religion and Government that had always existed” in the states, Adams concluded that it was “unlikely” that the Founders would “lay aside all connection with Christianity in the general institutions to which they gave birth . . . Though a strong aversion had arisen to the national establishment of any one form of Christianity, none had grown up against a distinct recognition of Christianity itself as a religion of the nation.”
Colonel (later, Vice President) Richard Johnson chaired the relevant congressional committees, and he released sharply worded, largely anticlerical, reports that don’t really talk about the establishment clause or any other specific part of the Constitution. The spirit of the Constitution, however, is clearly stated: “The Constitution regards the general government in no other light than that of a civil institution, wholly destitute of religious authority.” In a nice bit of irony, the official congressional reports were actually ghostwritten by Johnson’s Washington landlord, a Baptist minister named Obadiah Brown.
Here was the big church-state fight that we sometimes pretend happened when the establishment clause was adopted. When it finally occurred forty years later, the first round went to the separationists. But, the Sabbatarians never gave up, and they shut down the Sunday mails for good in 1912. American’s competing church-state views seem to be so deeply rooted that these kinds of disputes – perhaps like the 20th century school prayer arguments – can literally endure for generations, if not centuries.