Crimm & Winer on Tax Laws and Political Speech by Houses of Worship

Our St. John’s colleague, Nina Crimm, has published “Tax Laws’ Ban on Political Campaign Speech by Houses of Worship: Inappropriate Government Censorship and Intrusion on Religion”  (with Laurence Winer (Arizona State)) in a symposium issue of the Bar Ilan University Journal of Law, State and Religion. The abstract follows:

To ensure their legitimacy, western liberal democracies depend on the fullest protection for freedom of political and electoral speech. Governments should not interfere with or chill these fundamental rights of democratic participation without overwhelmingly compelling reasons to do so.  In the US, however, despite the majestic protections of the First Amendment, anomalously there remains a large class of nonprofit entities that are statutorily precluded from this type of crucial political involvement, and this exceptional restriction on speech is incongruously based in the federal tax code. In particular, spiritual leaders who might feel theologically compelled to speak out on critical moral and political issues of the day risk the tax exempt status of their houses of worship if they cross an amorphous line into explicit or implicit political campaign speech. Both freedom of expression and religious freedom are at stake, and the tax system is a particularly inapt and inept mechanism for restricting speech and influencing the political activity of houses of worship.

Tocqueville on the naturalness of religious belief

In considering the relationship between Christianity and modern democracy, Tocqueville was bound to offer some explanation of the fact that democracy in America was hospitable to that faith while democracy in France was hostile to it. Such an explanation could of course also help explain why, in America, the Reformation and the Enlightenment were and have remained allies while, in much of Europe, the Enlightenment and the Counter-Reformation were, until recent times, vehemently opposed. And it could also shed light on the persisting phenomenon that Americans even now are typically more “religious” than Europeans.

One might have thought that the difference between French and American had something to do with the origins of the two democracies: American democracy took hold in an overwhelmingly Protestant environment, while French democracy arose in opposition to the Catholic Church. Indeed, Tocqueville himself observed that the early Puritan settlers of America brought with them “a form of Christianity which I can only describe as democratic and republican,” and that the circumstances of America’s founding were thus “exceptionally favorable to the establishment of a democracy and a republic in governing public affairs.” Democracy in America at 336 (Bevan trans.). To understand America fully, Tocqueville suggests, we must keep its Puritan origins in mind: “[i]t is religion which has given birth to Anglo-American societies: one must never lose sight of that.” Id. at 496.

In fact, however, Tocqueville’s explanation of the (sometimes amicable, sometimes antagonistic) relationship between Christianity and democracy followed another course. The crucial distinction, he argues, is not between Protestant and Catholic forms of Christianity, but between religion in its “natural” state and religion as a “political” institution. When a political régime permits religion to remain in its “natural” condition, and religion for its part does not seek a “political” role, religion will flourish and, moreover, the régime may find itself stronger for that fact. On the other hand, if a régime seeks to instrumentalize religion or if religion seeks political power, religion will inevitably suffer and any benefits to the régime from its alliance with religion will be fleeting.

Although Tocqueville says that “[a]longside every religion lies some political opinion which is linked to it by affinity,” id. at 336, and acknowledges that “Catholicism resembles absolute monarchy,” id. at 337, he nonetheless insists that neither Protestantism nor Catholicism is especially fitted to or congruent with any specific type of political régime. “[I]n the United States there is no single religious doctrine which is hostile to democratic and republican institutions.” Id. at 338. If anything, Tocqueville believes that Catholicism, despite its apparent affinity for monarchy, would be a better form of Christianity from the standpoint of democracy than Protestantism. Catholicism leads men towards equality, while Protestantism leads them towards independence, id. at 337; and the former condition is more favorable to democracy. Thus, although Catholics retain “a firm loyalty” to their form of worship and are “full of fervent zeal” for their beliefs, they are “the most republican and democratic class in the United States” id., at once “the most obedient believers and the most independent citizens,” id. at 338.

Such, in brief, is Tocqueville’s main line of argument. But as we shall discover, many qualifications to it are needed and some significant problems for it arise. Let us begin by considering his analysis of the situation in pre-Revolutionary France.

Two Trends in French Enlightenment Thought

The French Revolution, Tocqueville thought, saw two great passions at work: political and religious. Of these, the anti-religious passion was “the first to be kindled and the last to be extinguished.” Alexis de Tocqueville, The Ançien Régime and the Revolution 21 (original ed. 1856; Bevan trans. 2008). The Revolution’s hatred of religion was largely the handiwork of eighteenth century French Enlightenment philosophy which, he says, “is correctly considered as one of the main causes of the Revolution” and which was “profoundly anti-religious.” Id.

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Karlip, “The Tragedy of a Generation: The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism in Eastern Europe”

This July, Harvard University Press published The Tragedy of a Generation: The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism in Eastern Europe by Joshua M. Karlip tragedyofageneration(Yeshiva University).  The publisher’s description follows.

The Tragedy of a Generation is the story of the rise and fall of an ideal: an autonomous Jewish nation in Europe. It traces the origins of two influential but overlooked strains of Jewish thought—Yiddishism and Diaspora Nationalism—and documents the waning hopes and painful reassessments of their leading representatives against the rising tide of Nazism and, later, the Holocaust.

Joshua M. Karlip presents three figures—Elias Tcherikower, Yisroel Efroikin, and Zelig Kalmanovitch—seen through the lens of Imperial Russia on the brink of revolution. Leaders in the struggle for recognition of the Jewish people as a national entity, these men would prove instrumental in formulating the politics of Diaspora Nationalism, a middle path that rejected both the Zionist emphasis on Palestine and the Marxist faith in class struggle. Closely allied with this ideology was Yiddishism, a movement whose adherents envisioned the Yiddish language and culture, not religious tradition, as the unifying force of Jewish identity.

We follow Tcherikower, Efroikin, and Kalmanovitch as they navigate the tumultuous early decades of the twentieth century in pursuit of a Jewish national renaissance in Eastern Europe. Correcting the misconception of Yiddishism as a radically secular movement, Karlip uncovers surprising confluences between Judaism and the avowedly nonreligious forms of Jewish nationalism. An essential contribution to Jewish historiography, The Tragedy of a Generation is a probing and poignant chronicle of lives shaped by ideological conviction and tested to the limits by historical crisis.

Steinberg, “German Jihad: On the Internationalization of Islamist Terrorism”

This June, Columbia University Press published German Jihad: On the Internationalization of Islamist Terrorism by Guido W. Steinberg (German germanjihadInstitute for International Security Affairs).  The publisher’s description follows.

Since 2007, the German jihadist scene has become Europe’s most dynamic, characterized by an extreme anti-Americanism, impressive international networks, and spectacularly effective propaganda. German jihadists travel to Turkey, Chechnya, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, trading jihadist ideologies and allying themselves with virulent organizations. Mapping the complicated interplay between jihadists’ personal motivations and the goals and strategies of the world’s major terrorist groups, Guido W. Steinberg provides the first analysis of German jihadism, its links to Turkey, and its growing, global operational importance.

Steinberg follows the formation of German-born militant networks in German cities and their radicalization and recruitment. He describes how these groups join al-Qaeda-affiliated organizations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, such as the Islamic Jihad Union, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Taliban, and he plots the path that directly involves them in terrorist activities. Situating these developments within a wider global context, Steinberg interprets the expanding German scene as part of a greater internationalization of jihadist ideology and strategy, swelling the movement’s membership since 9/11. Increasing numbers of Pakistanis, Afghans, Turks, Kurds, and European converts are coming to the aid of Arab al-Qaeda, an incremental integration that has worrisome implications for the national security of Germany, the United States, and their allies.