“Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights” (Bruning & van der Zweerde, eds.)

We’re a little late getting to this, but last year Peeters published an interesting looking collection on the conception of human rights in Orthodox Christianity, particularly in nations from the former Soviet Union: Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights (Bruning & van der Zweerde, eds.). As the Pussy Riot trial showed, the view of human rights in those nations sometime diverges from the Western consensus in a way that leaves everyone a bit confused. This book may help resolve some of that confusion. Here’s the publisher’s summary:

Orthodox theology and the Orthodox Churches had, and continue to have an ambiguous relationship towards the concept of Human Rights: principal approval often stands alongside serious criticism. This is especially true for those Orthodox Churches which have their centre in a country of the former Soviet sphere. On the one hand, especially since the fall of Communism they enjoy religious freedom that forms a central element within the framework of Human Rights. On the other hand, the transformation process of the 1990s and the challenge of pluralism and globalization have all confronted them with aspects of freedom that could not but affect their stance towards the Human Rights concept in general. This also means, that doubts and reservations related to this concept came to the fore again, which had yet existed already decades before. These reservations focused on such issues as Church and secular society, Church and state, furthermore on the understanding of central terms such as “freedom”, “dignity”, “rights” – central also for an Orthodox anthropology, that needs to be reconciled with the partly differing approaches behind the Human Rights concept.

The chapters of this volume try and explore as much the philosophical and theological as the social, historical and practical aspects of this complex relationship. Based either on the discussion of differing theological concepts, or on empirical and concrete case studies respectively, they clearly show the tensions and fractures that do exist. On the other hand, in this way they also hint at possibilities to overcome these tensions, to continue a dialogue that already has begun, and to avoid the numerous misunderstandings between East and West which currently tend to form a hindrance to this dialogue at various points.

H/T: Eastern Christian Books

State Religious Neutrality and the Point of Departure

A quick followup on Claudia’s very interesting post on state religious neutrality. As Claudia suggests, pretty much every Western democracy nowadays accepts the notion that the state must be “neutral” with respect to religion. But, as Claudia points out, the fact that everyone uses the same word obscures underlying disagreements. In the US, for example, neutrality means that the state may not display sectarian symbols, at least in a manner that seems to endorse the sectarian message. Not so in Europe. There, the ECtHR has made plain, a state may display sectarian symbols as long as the state does not engage in active proselytizing. Thus, according to the recent Lautsi decision, European states may display crucifixes in public school classrooms, conduct that would be unthinkable in the US under current Supreme Court jurisprudence.

In trying to understand the different meanings the same word has in different systems, it’s useful to consider what Tocqueville referred to as a nation’s “point of departure.” Every legal system is embedded in a particular culture with a particular history. In Europe, where links between church and state are traditionally very strong, certain state actions, like placing sectarian symbols in the public space, are simply part of the background, something most people take for granted. In the US, however, a society with a much stronger separationist tradition, such actions are not seen as neutral and innocuous. I explain this all in more depth in a recent article on the Italian crucifix case, “Crosses and Culture: State-Sponsored Religious Displays in the US and Europe,” in the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion. Interested readers can find the article on the journal’s website, here.

Rosenberg, “Critical Enthusiasm: Capital Accumulation and the Transformation of Religious Passion”

imageIn August, Oxford University Press will publish Critical Enthusiasm: Capital Accumulation and the Transformation of Religious Passion by Jordana Rosenberg (U. Mass.).  The publisher’s description follows.

The Atlantic world of the long eighteenth century was characterized by two major, interrelated phenomena: the onset of capital accumulation and the infusion of traditions of radical religious rapture into Enlightenment discourses. In exploring these cross-pollinations, Critical Enthusiasm shows that debates around religious radicalism are bound to the advent of capitalism at its very root: as legal precedent, as financial rhetoric, and as aesthetic form. To understand the period thus requires that we not only contextualize histories of religion in terms of the economic landscape of early modernity, but also recast the question of secularization in terms of the contradictions of capitalism.

Sullivan & Beaman, “Religious Freedom and Varieties of Establishment”

This July, Ashgate will publish Varieties of Religious Establishment edited by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan (SUNY Buffalo) and Lori G. Beaman (University of Ottawa). The publisher’s description follows.

During the past decade attention to the topic of religious freedom has grown exponentially. Examining the various forms religious establishment takes globally, from both theoretical and practical perspectives, this book argues that legal protections for religious freedom only make sense in a context of socially and culturally specific constraints. Leading international scholars from a diverse range of disciplines explore how countries today manage religious diversity.  Rather than adopting the common assumption that religious freedom is incompletely realized, the authors argue that the starting point should be what has historically been seen in the United States as freedom‘s evil twin – religious establishment. In the hyper-globalized world of the politics of religious freedom today, a focus on establishment brings into view background cultural assumptions, cosmologies, anthropologies, and institutions which are used to manage religion, as well as internal and external religious diversity. Establishment further reveals the limitations of universal, multicultural, and interfaith models. Disestablishment is impossible, as is religious freedom.

The Top Five New Law & Religion Papers on SSRN

From SSRN’s list of most frequently downloaded law and religion papers posted in the last 60 days, here are the current top five. Since last week, all articles have remained in the same slots:

1. ‘The Divine Institution of Marriage’: An Overview of LDS Involvement in the Proposition 8 Campaign by Kaimipono David Wenger (Thomas Jefferson School of Law) [529 downloads]

2. Must We Be Faithful to Original Meaning?  by Jack M. Balkin (Yale  U. – Law School) [229 downloads]

3. Protecting Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty by Douglas Laycock (U. of Virginia School of Law) and Thomas C. Berg (U. of St. Thomas School of Law) [200 downloads]

4. Taxes and Religion: The Hobby Lobby Contraceptive Cases  by Steven J. Willis (U. of Florida) [131 downloads]

5. Do For-Profit Businesses Have Free Exercise Rights? by Robert K. Vischer (U. of St. Thomas) [108 downloads]