Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:
- New York Magazine has published a new interview with Justice Antonin Scalia
- The Supreme Court began a new term on Monday, and will hear some cases about freedom of religion
- As the U.S. struggles with health reform, the Amish effectively opt out of Obamacare
- An Ohio court has ruled for a hospital that wants to force an Amish girl to continue chemotherapy over her parents’ religious objections
- Catholic and Protestant leaders gathered for a “faithful filibuster,” an organized reading of biblical scripture in an effort to remind members of Congress that the government shutdown is hurting poor and vulnerable people
- An all-women’s gym in a suburb of Paris has become the focus of the French debate over Muslim integration and secularism
- After a 25 year struggle, the Women of the Wall have agreed in principle to move their monthly prayer meetings to “an equally and fully integrated third section of the Kotel,” the Hebrew word for the Western Wall
- The ACLU of Tennessee sent letters to several local school superintendants this week, calling on them to stop school-sponsored prayer before football games
- Christians remain under threat in Syria where Islamic extremists gain influence
- Last Sunday, eight Orthodox Christian leaders, dignitaries from other faiths, politicians, and thousands of others celebrated the anniversary of the Edict of Milan, which established toleration for Christianity in the Roman Empire 1,700 years ago
- The NY Times featured a Southern Baptist Bible College inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary that spreads religion among the inmates and provides “moral rehabilitation”
This December, the University of Virginia Press will publish Establishing Religious Freedom: Jefferson’s Statute in Virginia by Thomas E. Buckley (Loyola Marymount University). The publisher’s description follows.
The significance of the Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom goes far beyond the borders of the Old Dominion. Its influence ultimately extended to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the separation of church and state. In his latest book, Thomas Buckley tells the story of the statute, beginning with its background in the struggles of the colonial dissenters against an oppressive Church of England. When the Revolution forced the issue of religious liberty, Thomas Jefferson drafted his statute and James Madison guided its passage through the state legislature. Displacing an established church by instituting religious freedom, the Virginia statute provided the most substantial guarantees of religious liberty of any state in the new nation.
The statute’s implementation, however, proved to be problematic. Faced with a mandate for strict separation of church and state–and in an atmosphere of sweeping evangelical Christianity–Virginians clashed over numerous issues, including the legal ownership of church property, the incorporation of churches and religious groups, Sabbath observance, protection for religious groups, Bible reading in school, and divorce laws. Such debates pitted churches against one another and engaged Virginia’s legal system for a century and a half.
Fascinating history in itself, the effort to implement Jefferson’s statute has even broader significance in its anticipation of the conflict that would occupy the whole country after the Supreme Court nationalized the religion clause of the First Amendment in the 1940s.
This October, Harvard University Press published Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice by Martha C. Nussbaum (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows.
How can we achieve and sustain a “decent” liberal society, one that aspires to justice and equal opportunity for all and inspires individuals to sacrifice for the common good? In this book, a continuation of her explorations of emotions and the nature of social justice, Martha Nussbaum makes the case for love. Amid the fears, resentments, and competitive concerns that are endemic even to good societies, public emotions rooted in love—in intense attachments to things outside our control—can foster commitment to shared goals and keep at bay the forces of disgust and envy.
Great democratic leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., have understood the importance of cultivating emotions. But people attached to liberalism sometimes assume that a theory of public sentiments would run afoul of commitments to freedom and autonomy. Calling into question this perspective, Nussbaum investigates historical proposals for a public “civil religion” or “religion of humanity” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill, and Rabindranath Tagore. She offers an account of how a decent society can use resources inherent in human psychology, while limiting the damage done by the darker side of our personalities. And finally she explores the cultivation of emotions that support justice in examples drawn from literature, song, political rhetoric, festivals, memorials, and even the design of public parks.
“Love is what gives respect for humanity its life,” Nussbaum writes, “making it more than a shell.” Political Emotions is a challenging and ambitious contribution to political philosophy.