Marinović and Jerolimov on the State and Minority Religious Communities in Croatia

Ankica Marinović and Dinka Marinović Jerolimov (Institute for Social Research, Zagreb) have posted What about Our Rights? The State and Minority Religious Communities in Croatia: A Case Study. The abstract follows.

In December 2007, three registered minority religious communities in Croatia took a discrimination case against the Republic of Croatia to the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) in Strassbourg. This paper documents the entire case, from the public announcement of the lawsuit to the final decision of the ECHR, which ruled in favour of the three religious communities. In a broader sense, this case study deals with church-state relations in Croatia and points to some important consequences of the case for religious rights, religious freedom, and governing by the rule of law in Croatia.

Sandberg, et al. on Britain’s Religious Tribunals and “Joint Governance”

Russell Sandberg, Gillian Douglas, Norman Doe, Sophie Gilliat-Ray and Asma Khan (Cardiff U.) have posted Britain’s Religious Tribunals: ‘Joint Governance’ in Practice. The abstract follows.

In recent years, there have been a number of moral panics in Western societies about the existence of religious courts and tribunals in general and Shariah law in particular. In England and Wales, these concerns came to the fore following the 2008 lecture by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, on ‘Civil Law and Religious Law in England’. In that lecture, Williams drew upon the work of the Canadian scholar Ayelet Shachar endorsing her concept of ‘transformative accommodation’. In this article, we return to the work of Shachar in the light of our recent empirical study which examined the divorce jurisdiction of three religious tribunals in detail: a Jewish Beth Din; a matrimonial tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church; and a Muslim Shariah Council. We suggest that the focus upon Shachar’s concept of ‘transformative accommodation’ by Williams and subsequent commentators is unfortunate given that Shachar actually proposes ‘transformative accommodation’ as just one variant of what she refers to as ‘joint governance’ (albeit her preferred variant). We propose that the umbrella concept of ‘joint governance’ and its other variants can be developed in a way that could prove to be more useful than ‘transformative accommodation’.

Nongbri, “Before Religion”

At least since the Enlightenment, the West has assumed that “religion” and “civil government” are separate categories. “Religion” concerns spiritual things like the soul and salvation; civil government concerns the things of this world: health, property, leisure. In fact, the Enlightenment separated religion, not only from politics, but from disciplines like economics as well. Not all cultures share the assumption that religion should be strictly segregated from other aspects of social life, of course, and not everyone in the West does, either. But the Enlightenment assumption still informs much of what we do, whether we think about it consciously or not. Brent Nongbri of Sydney’s Macquarie University has written an interesting-looking book on the history of “religion” as a separate category in Western thought, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (Yale 2012). The publisher’s description follows:

For much of the past two centuries, religion has been understood as a universal phenomenon, a part of the “natural” human experience that is essentially the same across cultures and throughout history. Individual religions may vary through time and geographically, but there is an element, religion, that is to be found in all cultures during all time periods. Taking apart this assumption, Brent Nongbri shows that the idea of religion as a sphere of life distinct from politics, economics, or science is a recent development in European history—a development that has been projected outward in space and backward in time with the result that religion now appears to be a natural and necessary part of our world.

Examining a wide array of ancient writings, Nongbri demonstrates that in antiquity, there was no conceptual arena that could be designated as “religious” as opposed to “secular.” Surveying representative episodes from a two-thousand-year period, while constantly attending to the concrete social, political, and colonial contexts that shaped relevant works of philosophers, legal theorists, missionaries, and others, Nongbri offers a concise and readable account of the emergence of the concept of religion.

Rosen on the Liberal Case for Educational Accommodation of Religious Groups

Apropos of Erwin Chemerinsky’s illiberal proposal to close down all private and religious schools, here is a liberal argument for accommodation of the educational preferences of (some) religious and other “perfectionist” groups: The Educational Autonomy of Perfectionist Religious Groups in a Liberal State, by Mark Rosen.  The influence of Rawls on Rosen’s work is very substantial, but Rosen departs from Rawls in several interesting ways.  Arguments like Rosen’s are not the only way to think about issues of educational pluralism (and it seems to me that Rosen’s piece has nothing to say about the educational autonomy of non-perfectionist groups, such as one might find at your typical secular private school).  For a different approach, see this earlier post on Ashley Berner’s essay.  But, like Berner’s essay, Rosen’s is a serious and thoughtful attempt to grapple with these problems.  Here’s the abstract.

This Article draws upon, but reworks, John Rawls’ framework from Political Liberalism to determine the degree of educational autonomy that illiberal perfectionist religious groups ought to enjoy in a liberal state. I start by arguing that Rawls mistakenly concludes that political liberalism flatly cannot accommodate Perfectionists, and that his misstep is attributable to two errors: (1) Rawls utilizes an overly restrictive “political conception of the person” in determining who participates in the original position, and (2) Rawls overlooks the possibility of a “federalist” basic political structure that can afford significant political autonomy to different groups within a single country. With these insights, I argue that some, though not all, religious Perfectionists are consistent with a stable liberal polity, and explain why foundational Rawlsian premises require that Perfectionists be accommodated to the extent possible.

My ultimate conclusions are that liberal polities ought to grant significant autonomy to those illiberal groups that satisfy specified conditions, and that the autonomy of such “eligible” illiberal groups is subject to two further constraints, which I call “well-orderedness” and “opt-out.” The autonomy to which eligible Perfections are entitled includes the authority to educate their children in a way that provides a fair opportunity for the groups to perpetuate themselves. The constraint of well-orderedness, however, permits the State to impose educational requirements that facilitate peace and political stability. Accommodating eligible illiberal groups, subject to these constraints, is an instantiation of liberal commitments, not a compromise of liberal values.