Law and Religion in Justice Thomas’s Fisher Concurrence

As Supreme Court followers will already know, the Court issued decisions in several cases today, including an employment discrimination case, a case about the reach of the Necessary and Proper Clause (take note, my old students!), and, of course, a case dealing with affirmative action in public universities.

There isn’t much involving law and religion in any of these cases. But not nothing either. I am still digesting Fisher v. University of Texas, but the upshot seems to be a clarification of sorts by the Court that, in applying a strict scrutiny standard in this context, while deference is due to a university’s belief in the importance of “the educational benefits flowing from student body diversity,” deference is not due to the manner in which the university attempts to achieve the asserted interest in diversity (where narrow tailoring of the means to the end is necessary). Good faith efforts by the university to achieve narrow tailoring are not sufficient to satisfy the narrow tailoring element of strict scrutiny. Justice Kennedy, writing for the Court, offered this: “Strict scrutiny must not be ‘strict in theory but fatal in fact.’….But the opposite is also true. Strict scrutiny must not be strict in theory but feeble in fact.” The case was vacated and remanded to the Fifth Circuit for reconsideration in light of the Court’s clarification of the applicable standard.

In a sizable and strongly worded concurrence, Justice Thomas agreed that the Fifth Circuit did not apply strict scrutiny but also argued that the Court should have overruled Grutter v. Bollinger, where the Court offered its fullest statement about educational diversity. Justice Thomas’s concurrence is framed in large part as a series of comparisons between arguments made by segregationists and arguments made by proponents of what he calls “race discrimination” in admissions, among which is the following:

Slaveholders argued that slavery was a “positive good” that civilized blacks and elevated them in every dimension of life. See, e.g., Calhoun, Speech in the U. S. Senate, 1837, in P. Finkelman, Defending Slavery 54, 58–59 (2003) (“Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually. . . . [T]he relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two [races], is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good”); Harper, Memoir on Slavery, in The Ideology of Slavery 78, 115–116 (D. Faust ed. 1981) (“Slavery, as it is said in an eloquent article published in a Southern periodical work . . . ‘has done more to elevate a degraded race in the scale of humanity; to tame the savage; to civilize the barbarous; to soften the ferocious; to enlighten the ignorant, and to spread the blessings of [C]hristianity among the heathen, than all the missionaries that philanthropy and religion have ever sent forth’”); Hammond, The Mudsill Speech, 1858, in Defending Slavery, supra, at 80, 87 (“They are elevated from the condition in which God first created them, by being made our slaves”) . . . .

Following in these inauspicious footsteps, the University would have us believe that its discrimination is likewise benign. I think the lesson of history is clear enough: Racial discrimination is never benign. “‘[B]enign’ carries with it no independent meaning, but reflects only acceptance of the current generation’s conclusion that a politically acceptable burden, imposed on particular citizens on the basis of race, is reasonable.” See Metro Broadcasting, 497 U. S., at 610 (O’Connor, J., dissenting). It is for this reason that the Court has repeatedly held that strict scrutiny applies to all racial classifications, regardless of whether the government has benevolent motives. See, e.g., Johnson, 543 U. S., at 505 (“We have insisted on strict scrutiny in every context, even for so-called ‘benign’ racial classifications”); Adarand, 515 U. S., at 227 (“[A]ll racial classifications, imposed by whatever federal, state,or local governmental actor, must be analyzed by a reviewing court under strict scrutiny”); J. A. Croson, 488 U. S., at 500 (“Racial classifications are suspect, and that means that simple legislative assurances of good intention cannot suffice”). The University’s professed good intentions cannot excuse its outright racial discrimination any more than such intentions justified the now denounced arguments of slaveholders and segregationists.

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, Wenger has remained #1, Balkin has remained #2, Laycock has been replaced by Alvare as #3, Willis has remained #4, and Vischer has been replaced by Lombardi as #5:

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) [534 downloads]

2. Must We Be Faithful to Original Meaning?  by Jack M. Balkin (Yale  U. – Law School) [239 downloads]

3.  No Compelling Interest: The ‘Birth Control’ Mandate and Religious Freedom by Helen M. Alvare (George Mason U., School of Law) [165 downloads]

4. Taxes and Religion: The Hobby Lobby Contraceptive Cases  by Steven J. Willis (U. of Florida) [142 downloads]

5. Designing Islamic Constitutions: Past Trends and Options for a Democratic Future by Clark B. Lombardi (U. of Washington, School of Law) [104 downloads]

Leustean & Madeley (eds.), “Religion, Politics and Law in the European Union”

religion in euThis August, Routledge will publish Religion, Politics and Law in the European Union edited by Lucian N. Leustean (Aston U.) and John T.S. Madeley (London School of Economics and Political Science).  The publisher’s description follows.

EU enlargement – to countries in Central and Eastern Europe in 2004, the inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, and increasing debates on Turkey’s membership – has dramatically transformed the European Union into a multi-religious space. Religious communities are not only shaping identities but are also influential factors in political discourse. This edited volume examines the activities of religious actors in the context of supranational European institutions and the ways in which they have responded to the idea of Europe at local and international levels. By bringing together scholars working in political science, history, law and sociology, this volume analyses key religious factors in contemporary EU architecture, such as the transformation of religious identities, the role of political and religious leaders, EU legislation on religion, and, the activities of religious lobbies.

This book was published as a special issue of Religion, State and Society.

Crouch, “Law and Religion in Indonesia”

This September, Routledge will publish Law and Religion in Indonesia: Faith, Conflicts and the Courts by Melissa Crouch (National University of Singapore). The publisher’s description follows.

Understanding and managing inter-religious relations, particularly between Muslims and Christians, presents a challenge for states around the world. This book investigates legal disputes between religious communities in the world’s largest majority-Muslim, democratic country, Indonesia. It considers how the interaction between state and religion has influenced relations between religious communities in the transition to democracy.

The book presents original case studies based on empirical field research of court disputes in West Java, a majority-Muslim province with a history of radical Islam. These include criminal court cases, as well as cases of judicial review, relating to disputes concerning religious education, permits for religious buildings and the crime of blasphemy. The book argues that the democratic law reform process has been influenced by radical Islamists because of the politicization of religion under democracy and the persistence of fears of Christianization. It finds that disputes have been localized through the decentralization of power and exacerbated by the central government’s ambivalent attitude towards radical Islamists who disregard the rule of law.

Examining the challenge facing governments to accommodate minorities and manage religious pluralism, the book furthers understanding of state-religion relations in the Muslim world. This accessible and engaging book is of interest to students and scholars of law and society in Southeast Asia, was well as Islam and the state, and the legal regulation of religious diversity.

Bannerman, “Islam in Perspective (RLE Politics of Islam): A Guide to Islamic Society, Politics and Law”

islamThis May, Routledge published Islam in Perspective (RLE Politics of Islam): A Guide to Islamic Society, Politics and Law edited by Patrick Bannerman Omer (Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows.

There has been a significant upsurge of western interest in the political manifestations and significance of Islam in the last decade, fuelled by the notion of Islamic ‘revival’, the Iranian revolution and by events in countries as diverse as Egypt, Pakistan and Sudan.

Oil power and its effect on the international economic order, the relationship of Muslim countries with the superpowers and the continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict have also served to focus attention on Islamic politics and, in particular, on the notion of Islamic reassertion.

As the author of this book argues, one result of this interest has been the development of a view of Islam as monolithic and implacable. He takes a broad view of the intellectual and cultural history of Islam, emphasising the extraordinary diversity of Islamic societies and the ways in which the ideal is often pragmatically adapted to reality. In this wider social and historical context, the nature of Islamic revival is then reassessed.