Ahmed & Norton on Religious Tribunals in the United Kingdom

Farrah Ahmed (University of Oxford, Melbourne Law School) and Jane Calderwood Norton (University of Birmingham School of Law) have posted Religious Tribunals, Religious Freedom, and Concern for Vulnerable Women.  The abstract follows.

For the most part current UK law does not interfere with the operation of religious tribunals. The role of religious tribunals in family matters in the United Kingdom is, however, fiercely debated. While many considerations are at play in these debates, two are often set up against each other. Religious freedom is often given, on the one hand, as a reason not to interfere with religious tribunals. On the other hand, however, concern for the vulnerable – especially women in religious groups – is thought to weigh in favour of greater interference. This article evaluates the current legal response to religious tribunals in the UK in the context of family matters against these two key values. It also clarifies and expands on how religious tribunals can both harm and enhance these values. It finds that contrary to the way the debate is often presented, religious tribunals can harm religious freedom while, at the same time, they can also enhance the welfare of vulnerable persons.

Brewer, Mitchell & Leavey, “Ex-Combatants, Religion, and Peace in Northern Ireland”

In February, Palgrave MacMillan Publishing will publish Ex-Combatants, Religion, and Peace in Northern Ireland: The Role of Religion in Transitional Justice by John Brewer (University of Aberdeen, U.K.), David Mitchell, and Gerard Leavey. The publisher’s description follows.

Much has been written about the influence of religion on the Northern Ireland conflict and the part played by ex-combatants in the peace process. Yet we know very little about the religious outlook of ex-combatants themselves. Are they personally devout? Is religion important to their political identity? Did faith play a role in their decision to take up arms, or lay them down? And now that their war is over, does religion help them cope with the past?

Based on original interviews with ex-combatants from across the political and religious divide, this book addresses these questions, shedding new light on the interplay of religion, identity and violence in Ireland. It also shows how the case of Northern Ireland illuminates the current international debate around religion and peacemaking. Arguing that advocates of religious interventions in transitional justice often naively exaggerate its influence, a theoretical model for understanding the role of religion in transitional justice is proposed.

Smith, “Science and the Person: A Complacent Reflection”

CLR Forum friend and guest blogger Steve Smith has posted an enjoyable and thoughtful short essay (written with his distinctive grace and humor) about the implications of the developments in neuroscience for our legal understanding of the person (including our understanding of various issues in criminal law).  With an interesting qualification, his general sense is, there are no major destabilizing implications — hence his genial complacency.  Here’s a fragment involving that qualification, on the issue of whether neuroscience will affect our views about the intrinsic worth of the human person (footnotes omitted):

A better understanding of how the brain works and how it causes or correlates with mental states does not in itself tell us anything about whether persons have intrinsic worth, so far as I can see. Neither does an account of how persons may have evolved from other organisms. But it is possible that by giving more cachet to a naturalistic approach to understanding, advances in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology might contribute to the ascendancy of a worldview– or as I sometimes put it, an “ontological inventory” — in which things like intrinsic value don’t register. In this way, it is conceivable that neuroscience might for some people undermine belief in intrinsic value in the same way that for some people science undermines belief in God– not by scientifically demonstrating that God (or intrinsic value) aren’t real, but by promoting and reenforcing a vocabulary and conceptual framework, or ontological inventory, in which these things just don’t figure.

Some people will find this loss of faith in soul and intrinsic value invigorating; they will feel that their new-found skepticism is an indication of their tough-mindedness, or of their keeping up with current knowledge. Fine. The sad thing, I think, is when someone announces this loss of faith regretfully, because the sacrifice is, so far as I can see, pretty much gratuitous.

Conference on the Status of Iraqi Christians

The Interdisciplinary Program in Law and Religion at the Catholic University of America will host a conference, “The Status of the Christian Communities in Iraqi Kurdistan: Challenges and Opportunities,” on Wednesday, December 5, in Washington, DC. Panels will address the history of Christian communities in Iraqi Kurdistan, their present condition, and the legal challenges they face. Details are here.