I’ve been writing about theological and historical perspectives on religious identity, continuity, and division. See here and here and here. But what about the law? The problem of competing claims to what I’ve called the “religious DNA” of a faith tradition typically comes up during battles over church property arising out of divisions and schisms of one sort or another, within congregations or between congregations and larger church bodies. (I’m not going to talk here about the “personnel” issues that have given risen to the “ministerial exception” doctrine
These sorts of conflicts arise frequently in a country such as ours where religious life and ecclesiastical identities have often been in flux, and have always raised fascinating and difficult questions. An important recent example has been the effort to adjudicate the property of several Episcopal parish churches in Virginia whose congregations voted to break away from the Diocese of Virginia, and affiliate with the new “Anglican Church in North America” in reaction to the national Episcopal Church’s policies regarding homosexuality. Nobody, of course, disputes the right of a group of persons to worship as they please and affiliate with whatever religious group they please. The real question, put bluntly, is who gets to keep the church building, the bank accounts, the chalices and crosses and books and all the other material stuff of religious life. This past April, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled largely in favor of the Diocese and the national Episcopal Church and against the breakaway congregations.
The issues raised by these and similar cases are much too involved and messy for one blog post. But here are a few thoughts, connecting the legal questions to the other perspectives I’ve written about in this little series of posts.
In New York on October 30, the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, together with BYU’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies, will host a luncheon and panel discussion on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Gender Equality. Featured speakers include:
- Heiner Bielefeldt, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and author of a new report, “Freedom of Religion or Belief and Equality Between Men and Women”;
- Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of UN Women;
- Gulalai Ismail, founder and chairperson of Aware Girls;
- Margareta Grape, representative to the UN, World Council of Churches;
- Tina Ramirez, president, Hardwired.
Details are here.
Our friend San Levine emails to let us know that Touro Law School will host an annual national moot court competition in law and religion. The first competition will take place in April 2014. Details are available here.
This month, Cambridge will publish The Origins of Global Humanitarianism: Religion, Empires, and Advocacy, by Peter Stamatov (Yale University). The publisher’s description follows.
Whether lauded and encouraged or criticized and maligned, action in solidarity with culturally and geographically distant strangers has been an integral part of European modernity. Traversing the complex political landscape of early modern European empires, this book locates the historical origins of modern global humanitarianism in the recurrent conflict over the ethical treatment of non-Europeans that pitted religious reformers against secular imperial networks. Since the sixteenth-century beginnings of European expansion overseas and in marked opposition to the exploitative logic of predatory imperialism, these reformers – members of Catholic orders and, later, Quakers and other reformist Protestants – developed an ideology and a political practice in defense of the rights and interests of distant “others.” They also increasingly made the question of imperial injustice relevant to growing “domestic” publics in Europe. A distinctive institutional model of long-distance advocacy crystallized out of these persistent struggles, becoming the standard weapon of transnational activists.
Next month, Cambridge will publish Islam, Youth, and Modernity in the Gambia: The Tablighi Jama’at, by Marloes Janson (University of London). The publisher’s description follows.
This monograph deals with the sweeping emergence of the Tablighi Jama’at – a transnational Islamic missionary movement that has its origins in the reformist tradition that emerged in India in the mid-nineteenth century – in the Gambia in the past decade. It explores how a movement that originated in South Asia could appeal to the local Muslim population – youth and women in particular – in a West African setting. By recording the biographical narratives of five Gambian Tablighis, the book provides an understanding of the ambiguities and contradictions young people are confronted with in their (re)negotiation of Muslim identity. Together these narratives form a picture of how Gambian youth go about their lives within the framework of neo-liberal reforms and renegotiated parameters informed by the Tablighi model of how to be a “true” Muslim, which is interpreted as a believer who is able to reconcile his or her faith with a modern lifestyle.