Things That Aren’t on Enough Church-State Syllabi: Part III — Federally Funded Evangelism

Colonel Johnson of my last post was not only center stage for the country’s first big law and religion debate, he was also in the middle of the most amazing non-event in American church-state history.  Running short of cash, Johnson turned his Kentucky property into the site of one of the many federally-funded boarding schools where young Native American boys would be “Christianized” and “civilized.”  Every presidential administration from George Washington until the 20th century had some sort of effort to “civilize” the Indians, with James Madison helping to launch the school project.

Johnson partnered with the Baptist General Convention for Missionary Purposes, since the schools were invariably run by missionary organizations.  At one point, the War Department complained that the Kentucky Colonel’s school wasn’t properly recognizing the Sabbath.  After becoming famous for his reports decrying any federal cognizance of religion – especially relating to the Sabbath – what did he do?  He wrote to the Baptist minister running the school to complain about the apologies he had to make in Washington.  Johnson promised that these “irregularities” had been corrected, and the War Department would get the full Christianizing benefits it was paying for.

Isn’t it remarkable that this civilization process endured for a century without any church-state controversy?  Even President Grant, famous for his speech about keeping church and state “forever separate,” awarded control of part of the federal Indian agency to the Society of Friends, saying, “If you can make Quakers out of the Indians it will take the fight out of them.”

Church-state issues didn’t arise until late in the 19th century, when Catholic schools ended up with the lion’s share of the $3.8 million annual budget.  Only then did all the previous Protestant beneficiaries decide to call for an end to funding “sectarian” schools.  An interesting account is in R. Pierce Beaver, Church, State and the American Indians (1966).

It seems to me that we simply can’t talk about 20th century school-aid cases without paying attention to this remarkable history.

Don Drakeman

Murphy, “State Security Regimes and the Right to Freedom of Religion and Belief: Changes in Europe Since 2001”

This December, Routledge will publish State Security Regimes and the Right to Freedom of Religion and Belief: Changes in Europe since 2001 by Karen Murphy. The publisher’s description follows.

The question of to what extent, manifestations of religious beliefs should be permitted in the European public sphere has become a salient and controversial topic in recent years. Despite the increasing interest however, debates have rarely questioned the conventional wisdom that an increase in the range of security measures employed by a government inevitably leads to a decrease in the human rights enjoyed by individuals.

This book analyses the relationship between state security regime changes and the right to religious freedom in the EU. It presents a comparative analysis of the impact these regime changes have had on the politics, policies and protections of religious freedom across the EU member states in the post-2001 environment. The book provides a timely investigation into the role of national legislation, the European Court of Human Rights, and societal trends in the protection of religious freedom, and in so doing demonstrates why the relationship between state security and religious freedom is one of the most socially significant challenges facing policymakers and jurists in Europe at the present time.

Lecture: Jewish Law and Civil Procedure

Touro’s Jewish Law Institute will host a lecture, “A Comparative Look at Jewish Law and Civil Procedure,” by Rabbi Yona Reiss (Yeshiva University), on September 21. Details are here.

Girl in Pakistani Quran-Burning Case to be Released on Bail

Rimsha Masih, the Pakistani Christian teenager who has been in prison for weeks on blasphemy charges, will be freed on bail to await trial, the Guardian reports. A local mullah had accused Masih, who has Down’s Syndrome, of burning pages from a Quran. This week, however, the mullah’s colleagues accused him of framing Masih by planting incriminating evidence on her as part of a plot to drive Christians from the neighborhood. A senior Muslim cleric subsequently spoke in Masih’s defense and personally guaranteed her safety if the court were to release her. The case has shed light on Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which, detractors claim, is often used as a pretext for settling scores with Christians and other religious minorities. Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistani director of Human Rights Watch, says that he hopes the Masih case will lead to re-examination of the law, but other experts have expressed doubt about the possibility of reform. The law enjoys great popular support in Pakistan.

Wolterstorff, “Understanding Liberal Democracy: Essays in Political Philosophy”

This November, Oxford University Press will publish Understanding Liberal Democracy: Essays in Political Philosophy by Nicholas Wolterstorff (Yale) and edited by Terence Cuneo (University of Vermont). The publisher’s description follows.

Understanding Liberal Democracy presents notable work by Nicholas Wolterstorff at the intersection between political philosophy and religion. Alongside his influential earlier essays, it includes nine new essays in which Wolterstorff develops original lines of argument and stakes out novel positions regarding the nature of liberal democracy, human rights, and political authority. Taken together, these positions are an attractive alternative to the so-called public reason liberalism defended by thinkers such as John Rawls. The volume will be of interest to philosophers, political theorists, and theologians, engaging a wide audience of those interested in how best to understand the nature of liberal democracy and its relation to religion.