Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:
- Only hours before the law was to take effect, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a last-minute injunction from part of the Obamacare healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance policies covering contraception
- On Thursday, radical Sunni militants aligned with Al Qaeda threatened to take control of two important Iraqi cities, further evidence of growing Sunni extremism in the country after Islamist militants stormed police stations in several cities in Anbar province
- In ongoing peace talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued that Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is the “real key to peace”
- Human Rights Without Frontiers International, a non-profit advocacy organization based in Brussels, released a report highlighting the failure of the U.N. Human Rights Council to protect religious freedom
- For the first time, Israel is paying salaries to Reform rabbis
- Malaysia’s Islamic authorities seized 321 bibles from a Christian group because they used the word Allah to refer to God
- China blames religious extremism for a deadly “terrorist attack” in the western region of Xinjiang on Tuesday
- Saudi Arabia’s religious police warned against New Year’s Eve revelry
- A Philadelphia monsignor who won an appeal of his conviction in a priest-abuse scandal was released from prison on Thursday
- An informal grass-roots movement of Arab Christians, prompted in part by the persecution of Christians in the Middle East since the Arab Spring, wants to cooperate more closely with Israeli Jewish society
- The Israeli Knesset rejected the Freedom of Religion and Conscience bill, which aimed to block discrimination on religious grounds and allow for civil marriage regardless of race, sex, citizenship, and religion
This March, Harvard University Press will publish Between Pagan and Christian by Christian P. Jones (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows.
For the early Christians, “pagan” referred to a multitude of unbelievers: Greek and Roman devotees of the Olympian gods, and “barbarians” such as Arabs and Germans with their own array of deities. But while these groups were clearly outsiders or idolaters, who and what was pagan depended on the outlook of the observer, as Christopher Jones shows in this fresh and penetrating analysis. Treating paganism as a historical construct rather than a fixed entity, Between Pagan and Christian uncovers the ideas, rituals, and beliefs that Christians and pagans shared in Late Antiquity.
While the emperor Constantine’s conversion in 312 was a momentous event in the history of Christianity, the new religion had been gradually forming in the Roman Empire for centuries, as it moved away from its Jewish origins and adapted to the dominant pagan culture. Early Christians drew on pagan practices and claimed important pagans as their harbingers—asserting that Plato, Virgil, and others had glimpsed Christian truths. At the same time, Greeks and Romans had encountered in Judaism observances and beliefs shared by Christians such as the Sabbath and the idea of a single, creator God. Polytheism was the most obvious feature separating paganism and Christianity, but pagans could be monotheists, and Christians could be accused of polytheism and branded as pagans. In the diverse religious communities of the Roman Empire, as Jones makes clear, concepts of divinity, conversion, sacrifice, and prayer were much more fluid than traditional accounts of early Christianity have led us to believe.
This January, Oxford University Press will publish Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement edited by Roel Meijer (Radboud University in Nijmegen). The publisher’s description follows.
“Salafism” and “jihadi-Salafism” have become significant doctrinal trends in contemporary Islamic thought, yet the West has largely failed to offer a sophisticated and discerning definition of these movements. The contributors to Global Salafism carefully outline not only the differences in the Salafi schools but the broader currents of Islamic thought that constitute this trend as well. They examine both the regional manifestations of the phenomenon and its shared, essential doctrines. Their analyses highlight Salafism’s inherent ambivalence and complexities–the ‘out-antiquing the antique’ that has brought Islamic thought into the modern age while maintaining its relationship to an older, purer authenticity. Emphasising the subtle tensions between local and global aspirations within the “Salafi method”, Global Salafism investigates the movement like no other study currently available.
An inside joke for our readers who are law professors, from Eric Posner. “Law and Religion” doesn’t get a data point, surprisingly, but I’m pretty sure we’d be down in the lower right somewhere.