Pope Francis, “On Heaven and Earth”

Image Books recently announced it would publish the first English-language edition of On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family and the Church in the 21st Century by Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the newly elected Pope Francis.  On Heaven and Earth was first published in Latin America and Spain during 2010, and Image Books, a division of Random House, will publish an English-language edition on May 7, 2013.  The publisher’s description follows.

From the man who became Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio shares his thoughts on religion, reason, and the challenges the world faces in the 21st century with Abraham Skorka, a rabbi and biophysicist.

For years Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Argentina, and Rabbi Abraham Skorka were tenacious promoters of interreligious dialogues on faith and reason. They both sought to build bridges among Catholicism, Judaism, and the world at large. On Heaven and Earth, originally published in Argentina in 2010, brings together a series of these conversations where both men talked about various theological and worldly issues, including God, fundamentalism, atheism, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and globalization. From these personal and accessible talks comes a first-hand view of the man who would become pope to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world in March 2013.

Report: As Cardinal, Pope Supported Civil Unions As Alternative to Same-Sex Marriage

This will cause a stir. The New York Times reports that, in a private meeting with bishops in 2010, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio endorsed the idea of civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriage.

The suggestion came in the context of debate over legalizing same-sex marriage in Argentina. Although Cardinal Bergoglio vehemently and publicly opposed the law, the Times reports, at a private meeting of the Catholic bishops conference he supported civil unions as a compromise–“the lesser of two evils,” according to the cardinal’s authorized biographer. According to the Times, this suggestion “inflamed” the meeting, and the conference voted down the suggestion. Argentina eventually legalized same-sex marriage.

The Times argues that “Cardinal Bergoglio’s readiness to reach out across the ideological spectrum and acknowledge civil unions for gay people could raise expectations that he would do the same as pope,” but concedes that Pope Francis may have less need, and ability, to compromise on the issue. Anyway, in political terms, civil unions seems to be an idea whose time has passed–it’s doubtful that gay rights supporters would settle for anything less than marriage at this point.

Heimbach-Steins on the German Circumcision Case

In May 2012, a regional court in Cologne ruled that the circumcision of a boy, carried out for religious reasons, qualified as a crime under German law. The court reasoned that the child’s right to physical integrity trumps religious and parental rights—a decision that greatly concerned Germany’s Jewish and Muslim communities. The decision is available in German here and in English in an official and abbreviated version here.

In December 2012,  the ReligioWest project at the European University Institute sponsored a lecture by Marianne Heimbach-Steins (Institut für Christliche Sozialwissenschaften- Universität Münster) on the decision and the general topic. She has now published the paper for ReligioWest. Here’s the abstract:

In May 2012, a German court in Cologne ruled that circumcising young boys represents grievous bodily harm. This decision, which touched upon the questions of freedom of religious practice, identity and children’s rights, was condemned by Jewish and Muslim representatives in Germany, but it was also widely and controversially debated by civil society and politicians. The German Parliament recently passed legislation protecting circumcision as a religious practice, but the debate is likely to continue. In this paper, Marianne Heimbach-Steins, director of the department of Christian Social Ethics at the University of Münster (Germany), discuss this case and its implications for the definition  of religious freedom.

Her working paper can be downloaded here.

Hurst on Hosanna-Tabor and Separationism

Alan Hurst (BYU – J. Reuben Clark Law School) has posted Hosanna-Tabor and the Exaggerated Decline of Separationism. The abstract follows.

Scholars generally agree that the separation of church and state, as an approach to the Religion Clauses, has been in decline for decades. Yet the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran School v. EEOC is strongly and unanimously separationist, and none of scholars’ explanations for separationism’s decline adequately explain Hosanna-Tabor.

I argue that previous scholarship fails to explain Hosanna-Tabor because it has been insufficiently attentive to what “separationism” means and the ways in which separationist approaches to the Religion Clauses can differ from each other. It has therefore failed to appreciate the ways in which the Supreme Court’s separationist principles have evolved rather than being repudiated, in particular the Court’s increased willingness to see free private choice as an adequate buffer between church and state and the Court’s increasingly narrow understanding of what counts as religion for separationist purposes.

These evolving aspects of the Court’s approach to separationism help make sense of Hosanna-Tabor, in which free private choice was not an issue and the church’s interests at stake were clearly part of the religious sphere. Further, they lead to a few predictions about the future of separationism and recommendations for pro-separationist scholars and activists.

Pierceson, “Same-Sex Marriage in the United States”

This month, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers published Same-Sex Marriage in the United States: The Road to the Supreme Court by Jason Pierceson (University of Illinois, Springfield). The publisher’s description follows.Same-Sex Marriage in the United States

Same-sex marriage has become one of the defining social issues in contemporary U.S. politics. State court decisions finding in favor of same-sex relationship equality claims have been central to the issue’s ascent from nowhere to near the top of the national political agenda. Same Sex Marriage in the United States tells the story of the legal and cultural shift, its backlash, and how it has evolved over the past 15 years.

There is a clear story of jurisprudential evolution with regards to same-sex marriage from Hawaii, through Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Connecticut, and, remarkably, Iowa in 2009. This book aids in a classroom examination of the legal, political, and social developments surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage in the United States. While books about same-sex marriage have proliferated in recent years, few, if any, have provided a clear and comprehensive account of the litigation for same-sex marriage, and its successes and failures, as this book does.