This month, Lexington Books will publish Natural Law and Evangelical Political Thought edited by Jesse Covington (Westmont College), Bryan McGraw (Wheaton College), and Micah Watson (Union University). The publisher’s description follows.
Natural law has long been a cornerstone of Christian political thought, providing moral norms that ground law in a shareable account of human goods and obligations. Despite this history, twentieth and twenty-first-century evangelicals have proved quite reticent to embrace natural law, casting it as a relic of scholastic Roman Catholicism that underestimates the import of scripture and the division between Christians and non-Christians. As recent critics have noted, this reluctance has posed significant problems for the coherence and completeness of evangelical political reflections. Responding to evangelically-minded thinkers’ increasing calls for a re-engagement with natural law, this volume explores the problems and prospects attending evangelical rapprochement with natural law. Many of the chapters are optimistic about an evangelical re-appropriation of natural law, but note ways in which evangelical commitments might lend distinctive shape to this engagement.
Lukas Heckendorn Urscheler (Swiss Institute of Comparative Law) has posted Innovation in a Hybrid System: The Example of Nepal. The abstract follows.
The Nepali legal tradition is a legal hybrid in many regards. Nepal was not colonised by a Western state, and the Hindu legal tradition therefore dominated all areas of law until the middle of the 20th century. Since the 1950s there has been a strong influence of Indian common law. It is probably for this reason that comparative classifications that include Nepal see the legal system as a mixture of common law and customary law. However, other mixtures mark the Nepali legal tradition. French law inspired the ruler in the 19th century, and that influence can still be found in the formal law. In addition, the plurality of Nepalese society made it necessary to provide space for different customary regimes to coexist with the formal Hindu law. When it comes to innovations within the legal system, including international law, the different ingredients interact.
In family-related matters, the case-law of the Nepali Supreme Court illustrates the confrontation between international legal standards and the traditional rules. The Supreme Court has referred to the culturally conditioned discrimination against women and called for a thorough (political) analysis in order to eliminate discrimination without a radical change of culture. In the area of discrimination against homo- and transsexuals the Supreme Court took a more innovative approach. It remains to be seen, however, if such a change is effective beyond the courtroom.
In the area of private financial compensation for wrongs, the formal (written) Nepali law does not have a general concept of tort. Compensation is generally integrated within the ambit of criminal law. Field research indicates that it would be possible to resort to existing customary principles of compensation rather than to the relatively complex common law of torts favoured by some Nepali scholars. However, this approach might not be without difficulty, as it might imply admitting the “superiority” of the customary practices of ethnic groups of lower standing in society.
The example of Nepal shows that innovation in a hybrid system is often marked by the difficulty of – at least apparently – contradictory elements and layers of the legal system. There might be a tendency towards choosing the dominant or the most easily accessible solution. This paper suggests that the hybrid nature of the legal system offers opportunities that could be taken in order to achieve effective change and appropriate solutions.
In February, the Edinburgh University Press will publish Muslim Political Participation in Europe edited by Jorgen Nielsen (University of Copenhagen). The publisher’s description follows.
Analyses European Muslim communities’ developing involvement in their political environment and related Muslim and public debates
Muslims are making themselves noticed in the political process of Europe. But what is happening behind the sensational headlines? Jørgen Nielsen looks at the processes and realities, from voting patterns in local and national assemblies to the tensions between ethnic, political and religious identities.
These developments drive internal Muslim debates including whether Muslims should take part in the democratic process at all, and rivalries over who should represent Muslims. They also inspire sharp discussion in Europe: how should European states view the increasingly active role of Muslims in the public space? Does it signal integration or separation?
In February, University of Virginia Press will publish Earnestly Contending: Religious Freedom and Pluralism in Antebellum America by Dickson D. Bruce, Jr. (University of California, Irvine). The publisher’s description follows.
In Earnestly Contending, Dickson Bruce examines the ways in which religious denominations and movements in antebellum America coped with the ideals of freedom and pluralism that exerted such a strong influence on the larger, national culture. Despite their enormous normative power, these still-evolving ideals–themselves partly religious in origin–ran up against deeply entrenched concerns about the integrity of religious faith and commitment and the role of religion in society. The resulting tensions between these ideals and desires for religious consensus and coherence would remain unresolved throughout the period.
Focusing on that era’s interdenominational competition, Bruce explores the possibilities for and barriers to realizing ideals of freedom and pluralism in antebellum America. He examines the nature of religion from the perspectives of anthropology and cognitive sciences, as well as history, and uses this interdisciplinary approach to organize and understand specific tendencies in the antebellum period while revealing properties inherent in religion as a social and cultural phenomenon. He goes on to show how issues from that era have continued to play a role in American religious thinking, and how they might shed light on the controversies of our own time.
This month, Intersentia Publishing will publish Religious Symbols in Public Functions: Unveiling State Neutrality: A Comparative Analysis of Dutch, English and French Justifications for Limiting the Freedom of Public Officials to Display Religious Symbols by Hana M.A.E. van Ooijen (LL.M, Utrecht University). The publisher’s description follows.
Religious symbols are loaded with meaning, not only for those who display them. They have generated controversy in many circles, be they religious or secular, public or private, and within or outside academia. Debate has taken place throughout Europe and beyond, at times leading to limitations or bans of religious symbols. While this debate might seem whimsical in occasional flare-ups, it merits closer scrutiny, precisely because it is part of a long-running debate, it crosses boundaries and because it touches upon larger underlying questions.
This book singles out a particularly contentious issue: religious symbols in public functions and it focuses on the judiciary, the police and public education. It is often argued that public officials in these functions should be ‘neutral’ which consequently implies that they cannot display religious symbols. This book aims to unravel this line of thought to the core.
It disentangles the debate as it has been conducted in the Netherlands and studies the concept of state neutrality in depth. Furthermore, it appraises the arguments put forward against the background of three contexts: the European Convention on Human Rights, France and England. It critically questions whether state neutrality can necessitate and/or even justify limitations on the freedom of public officials to display religious symbols. Although this book is the result of an academic legal study, it can be read by students, academics, professionals, or anyone interested in the issue of religious symbols in public functions.