Panel on International Religious Freedom in Washington (Feb 25)

The Berkley Center at Georgetown will host a panel discussion tomorrow, “Is International Religious Freedom Policy Becoming Respectable?”:

Some fifteen years after the establishment of the US Office of International Religious Freedom and the position of US ambassador at large (currently vacant), the government of Canada has become the first country to follow suit. In 2012, the Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper created the Office of Religious Freedom in Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and in February 2013 appointed its first ambassador, Andrew Bennett. Meanwhile, a (sometimes controversial) mainstay of the US international religious freedom policy is the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, whose job is to sharpen and improve the policy implemented by the State Department. To what extent has the commission been successful? Can the American experience of success and failure help inform Canada’s new policy? What can the United States learn from its neighbor to the north?
Andrew Bennett, Canadian ambassador for religious freedom, and Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom will examine these questions. They will also discuss whether the two North American democracies encourage others to increase attention to international religious freedom. Join us as we discuss and debate these and other questions on February 25. Tom Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project, will moderate.
For details, please click here.

The Weekly Five

Today, the Weekly 5 focuses on American law. We note two pieces on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases–each focusing on different features of those cases–as well articles about copyright law, the parsonage exemption, and legislative prayer.

1. Stephen M. Bainbridge (UCLA), A Critique of the Corporate Law Professors’ Amicus Brief in Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood: Professor Bainbridge criticizes the claims of a number of law professors that principles of corporate law prohibit a corporation from assuming the religious beliefs of its shareholders. Professor Bainbridge argues that the doctrine of reverse veil-piercing provides a mechanism for disregarding the legal separateness of the corporation from its shareholders.

2. James M. Oleske Jr. (Lewis and Clark), Obamacare, RFRA, and the Perils of Legislative History: Professor Oleske argues that the legislative history of RFRA “casts considerable doubt” on the claim (most prominently advanced by Professor Douglas Laycock) that there was universal congressional agreement at the time of RFRA’s passing that the statute would apply to for-profit corporations. Professor Oleske concludes that it would be better for the Court to interpret RFRA in light of its own pre-1990 jurisprudence.

3. Carolyn Homer Thomas (Quinn, Emmanuel), The Copyright Act’s Licensing Exemption for Religious Performances of Religious Works is Unconstitutional. Ms. Thomas argues that the exemption of a licensing requirement for dramatic works with a sufficiently religious content violates the Establishment Clause, relying especially (see pp.  67 and following) on the Supreme Court’s opinion in a RLUIPA case, Cutter v. Wilkinson.

4. Edward A. Zelinsky (Cardozo), The First Amendment and the Parsonage Allowance: Professor Zelinksy discusses the justifications for parsonage exemption, which permits clergy to exclude their housing expenses from taxable income, in the context of criticizing a recent district court opinion striking down the parsonage exemption as a violation of the Establishment Clause.

5. Alan E. Brownstein (UC Davis), Town of Greece v. Galloway: Constitutional Challenges to State Sponsored Prayers at Local Government Meetings: In this lecture, Professor Brownstein considers the Galloway case as well as the constitutionality of legislative prayer generally. Professor Brownstein also offers a set of guidelines that, if followed by a municipality, would render legislative prayer constitutional.

Kundnani, “The Muslims Are Coming!”

Next month, Random House will publish The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani. The Muslims are Coming! The publisher’s description follows.

Death came instantly to Imam Luqman, as four FBI agents fired semiautomatic rifles at him from a few feet away. Another sixty officers surrounded the building on that October morning, the culmination of a two-year undercover investigation that had infiltrated the imam’s Detroit mosque. The FBI quickly claimed that Luqman Abdullah was “the leader of a domestic terrorist group.” And yet, caught on tape, he had refused to help “do something” violent, as it might injure innocents, and no terrorism charges were ever lodged against him.

Jameel Scott thought he was exercising his rights when he went to challenge an Israeli official’s lecture at Manchester University. But the teenager’s presence at the protest with fellow socialists made him the subject of police surveillance for the next two years. Counterterrorism agents visited his parents, his relatives, his school. They asked him for activists’ names and told him not to attend demonstrations. They called his mother and told her to move the family to another neighborhood. Although he doesn’t identify as Muslim, Jameel had become another face of the
presumed homegrown terrorist.

The new front in the War on Terror is the “homegrown enemy,” domestic terrorists who have become the focus of sprawling counterterrorism structures of policing and surveillance in the United States and across Europe. Domestic surveillance has mushroomed—at least 100,000 Muslims in America have been secretly under scrutiny. British police compiled a secret suspect list of more than 8,000 al-Qaeda “sympathizers,” and in another operation included almost 300 children fifteen and under among the potential extremists investigated. MI5 doubled in size in just five years.

Based on several years of research and reportage, in locations as disparate as Texas, New York, and Yorkshire, and written in engrossing, precise prose, this is the first comprehensive critique of counterradicalization strategies. The new policy and policing campaigns have been backed by an industry of freshly minted experts and liberal commentators. The Muslims Are Coming! looks at the way these debates have been transformed by the embrace of a narrowly configured and ill-conceived antiextremism.