Around the Web This Week

Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:

Omer, “When Peace is Not Enough”

9780226008103This May, University of Chicago Press published When Peace is Not Enough: How the Israeli Peace Camp Thinks About Religion, Nationalism, and Justice by Atalia Omer (Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows.

The state of Israel is often spoken of as a haven for the Jewish people, a place rooted in the story of a nation dispersed, wandering the earth in search of their homeland. Born in adversity but purportedly nurtured by liberal ideals, Israel has never known peace, experiencing instead a state of constant war that has divided its population along the stark and seemingly unbreachable lines of dissent around the relationship between unrestricted citizenship and Jewish identity.

By focusing on the perceptions and histories of Israel’s most marginalized stakeholders—Palestinian Israelis, Arab Jews, and non-Israeli Jews—Atalia Omer cuts to the heart of the Israeli-Arab conflict, demonstrating how these voices provide urgently needed resources for conflict analysis and peacebuilding. Navigating a complex set of arguments about ethnicity, boundaries, and peace, and offering a different approach to the renegotiation and reimagination of national identity and citizenship, Omer pushes the conversation beyond the bounds of the single narrative and toward a new and dynamic concept of justice—one that offers the prospect of building a lasting peace.

Bayat (ed.), “Post-Islamism: The Changing Faces of Political Islam”

9780199766079This June, Oxford University Press will publish Post-Islamism: The Changing Faces of Political Islam edited by Asef Bayat (Leiden University). The publisher’s description follows.

At least since the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran, political Islam or Islamism has been the focus of attention among scholars, policymakers, and the general public. Much has been said about Islamism as a political and moral/ethical trend, but scant attention is paid to its ongoing development. There is now a growing acknowledgment within the scholarly and policy communities that Islamism is in the throes of transformation, but little is known about the nature and direction of these changes. The essays of Post-Islamism bring together young and established scholars and activists from different parts of the Muslim World and the West to discuss their research on the changing discourses and practices of Islamist movements and Islamic states largely in the Muslim majority countries. The changes in these movements can be termed ‘post-Islamism,’ defined both as a condition and a project characterized by the fusion of religiosity and rights, faith and freedom, Islam and liberty. Post-Islamism emphasizes rights rather than merely obligation, plurality instead of singular authoritative voice, historicity rather than fixed scriptures, and the future instead of the past.

Call for Papers: “The New Cosmopolitanism”

The Contending Modernities Global Migration Working Group has issued a call for papers for a conference to take place in London in October, “The new cosmopolitanism: Global migration and the building of a common life”:

The global expansion of migration, within and between the global north and south, and the global resurgence and “publicization” of religion – have combined to bring religious and secular models of citizenship and civic education to the fore.  Nonetheless, there is surprisingly little consensus among religious leaders, educators, and policy makers as to what framework might allow people from different religious and ethical backgrounds to live together tolerantly and inclusively.  The lack of consensus is all the more vexing in that migration and religious revitalization today have created multicultural and multi-ethical landscapes all over the globe.  The question of the place of religion in modern multicultural societies is not an academic one, then, but one of the most pressing ethical challenges of our age.

Details are here.

Thanks, Dan, and Welcome, Claudia

Thanks so much to Dan Crane, who has blogged with us for the past few weeks. Dan’s posts were thoughtful and provocative, in the best sense of that word: they provoked reflection. We’ve greatly enjoyed having you with us, Dan, and hope you’ll come back soon.

In June, our guest will be Claudia Haupt, an Associate in Law at Columbia. She has a law degree and a PhD from the University of Cologne and an American LLM from George Washington, where she also served as Professional Lecturer in Law and International and Comparative Law Fellow. Her book, Religion-State Relations in the United States and Germany: The Quest for Neutrality, was published by Cambridge in 2012. Welcome, Claudia!

Legal Monstrosities: from Book I of More’s Utopia

Thomas More’s “Utopia” (1516) is written in two books.  The second of these, Utopia Frontispiecedescribing in detail the island of Utopia, is the more famous.  Here’s an enjoyable passage from the first book, in which More is getting to know the traveler Raphael Hythloday and asking him about his geographic explorations:

But what he told us that he saw in every country where he came, it were very long to declare. Neither it is my purpose at this time to make rehearsal thereof. But peradventure in another place I will speak of it, chiefly such things as shall be profitable to be known, as in special be those decrees and ordinances that he marked to be well and wisely provided and enacted among such peoples as do live together in a civil policy and good order. For of such things did we busily inquire and demand of him, and he likewise very willingly told us of the same. But as for monsters, because they be no news, of them we were nothing inquisitive. For nothing is more easy to be found than barking Scyllas, ravening Celaenos, and Laestrygons, devourers of people, and suchlike great and incredible monsters. But to find citizens ruled by good and wholesome laws, that is an exceeding rare and hard thing. But as he marked many fond and foolish laws in those new found lands, so he rehearsed divers acts and constitutions whereby these our cities, nations, countries, and kingdoms may take example to amend their faults, enormities, and errors.

NY Post on the Fight Over Equal Access for Religious Groups

The New York Post had a brief piece a couple of days ago on the story that we posted about here involving the fight over equal access for religious groups to New York City public school buildings. The Post article contains a few additional details about the City Council’s vote (it was 38-11) as well as some political speculation and other odds and ends about the controversy.  I am not sure what the piece means when it says that the Department of Education’s policy is “based on” New York State law.  At least a substantial part of the legal defense is grounded in the First Amendment.  It did come as news to me that the board’s policy “makes New York the exception among the nation’s 50 largest school districts.”  (h/t our former guest, Ashley Berner).

Vatican to UN: More Than 100,000 Christians Killed for Their Faith Each Year

For reasons I’ve discussed before, elite opinion in the West is uncomfortable with the idea of Christians as a persecuted minority. At least since the Enlightenment, Western intellectuals, as a class, have seen traditional Christians as adversaries to be resisted, not victims to be rescued. The idea that in some circumstances Christians might actually be victims complicates the narrative in unpleasant ways.

To be fair, traditional Christians in the West sometimes overstate their difficulties. There are worrisome signals, to be sure. In ways that one would not have imagined even 20 years ago, governments seem willing to require traditional Christians to give up their religious convictions as the price for entering the marketplace, or even doing charitable work. But that’s not persecution, exactly. No one is forcing Christians to the catacombs.

Persecution of Christians in other parts of the world is a fact, however, and one that needs repeating. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s Permanent Representative, thus deserves credit for raising the topic at a meeting of the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday. Tomasi deplored the fact that, according to credible estimates, more than 100,000 Christians around the world are killed each year because of their faith. Many others are subjected to rape, displacement, destruction of their places of worship, and the abduction of their leaders. As to that last item, the whereabouts of the two Orthodox bishops whom elements of the Syrian opposition kidnapped last month remain unknown.

It’s certainly true that other religious minorities suffer too; human rights advocates often give this as a reason for not singling out Christians in particular. But what sense does that make? One hears a great deal about the persecution of other religious minorities by name, and rightly so. It’s time the global human rights community spoke of the persecution of Christians, as Christians, as well.

Movsesian at the European University Institute (June 3)

For CLR Forum readers in the area, I’ll be giving a talk, “Psychic Sophie and the Rise of the Nones,” next week at the European University Institute in Florence. My talk will be sponsored by the Institute’s ReligioWest project. Here’s the abstract:

The most important story in American religion today is the rise of the “Nones,” the category of people who declare no religious affiliation. Approximately one-fifth of American adults are in this category, and their numbers have exploded in the past two decades. Surprisingly, perhaps, the Nones tend to be believers; very few of them say they are atheists or agnostics. They reject not belief but organized religion, and draw on a variety of traditions to create their own, a la carte, spiritualities. In this paper, I explore the rise of the Nones and the tensions it exposes in American law, particularly with regard to the definition of religion. To illustrate, I rely on a recent US appeals court case in which the plaintiff, “Psychic Sophie,” argued that the state had interfered with the exercise of her religion — which she defined, in typical None fashion, as “following her inner flow.”

Details are here. Stop by and say hello!

Do Skeptics Make Better Lawyers?

This will be my last post as a guest blogger.  Many thanks to Mark and Marc for allowing me this opportunity to share some thoughts and to the many readers who contributed comments, e-mailed me offline, or just read.  I’m now back to my day job saving monopolists not from their sins but from treble damage judgments.

Since I haven’t been able to stir up any controversy by asking how Jesus would rule on same-sex marriage or why evangelicals are underrepresented at elite law schools, I thought I might go out with a bang by asking whether skeptics—atheists, agnostics, and others skeptical about religious devotion and belief—generally make better lawyers than do people of faith.  And, in case the reader assumes that any post on a law and religion blog must necessary answer this question with a self-righteous snort, please be assured that I mean it quite seriously.

The question has lingered uncomfortably in my mind for a long time.  Back in June of 2005, when I was an untenured faculty member at Cardozo Law School (which is part of Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish institution), my then dean, David Rudenstine, gave a provocative address to group of 200 undergraduate counselors from northeastern universities in which he seemingly questioned whether people of faith could make good law students or lawyers.   David argued:  “Faith challenges the underpinnings of legal education . . . . Faith is a willingness to accept belief in things for which we have no evidence, or which runs counter to evidence we have.  Faith does not tolerate opposing views, does not acknowledge inconvenient facts. Law schools stand in fundamental opposition to this.”

That story is old and was widely discussed at the time, and I don’t mean to use this as an occasion to pick on David Rudenstine, whom I have always known to be fair-minded, ethical, and generous.  It’s just that I’ve often wondered whether David had at least half a point.

In an earlier post. I mentioned an online survey of students at an elite law school that suggested that evangelical Protestants might be underrepresented compared to their national demographic figures.  The same survey (and please see all caveats from last time about its informality) suggested that atheists and agnostics might be very significantly overrepresented compared to their national demographic figures.  According to Pew Forum data, people who identify as atheist or agnostic account for about 4% of all Read more