The media coverage of the now-vetoed Arizona bill amending the existing Arizona RFRA has been abominable. The claim that the bill would have permitted private businesses to refuse to serve gay people is simply untrue; the bill did not say that. The bill was short–just two pages long. Anybody could have read it quickly to see what it provided: expansion of state RFRA coverage for businesses and an amendment that private actions are now covered (as in, what the government cannot do directly, it cannot do indirectly by giving private parties a cause of action). The bill would have done nothing to change the basic burden-shifting framework of the Arizona RFRA–the same framework used by the federal RFRA–in which a judge is charged to determine whether there is a substantial burden counterbalanced by a compelling government interest achieved by the least restrictive means.
Perhaps that is the point, though. Anger against this bill is entirely misdirected. If one truly believes that laws which provide for the possibility of religious exemptions against generally applicable laws are anathema, the obvious course is to repeal the state and federal RFRAs themselves. Several prominent law and religion scholars have been advocating vigorously for just that result for some time. It appears that public sentiment is turning in their direction.
Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:
- Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have amended the existing state RFRA to make clear that it included for-profit businesses and applied as against private causes of action.
- In Texas, a federal judge struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban
- Religious leaders who favor an overhaul of immigration laws are stepping up their pressure on House Republicans
- On Thursday, a U.S. district judge dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought by eight Muslims who alleged the NYPD’s surveillance programs were unconstitutional because they focused on religion, national origin, and race
- The Jewish community of Thessaloniki is suing Germany in the European Court of Human Rights for the return of a ransom paid during the Nazi occupation of Greece
- An Al Qaeda splinter group has demanded that Christians in the Syrian city of Raqqa pay a levy in gold and curb displays of their faith in return for protection. The group demands that Christians must not make renovations to churches or other religious buildings, display religious insignia outside of churches, ring church bells, or pray in public.
- In Africa, the God Wars continue amidst weak governance, poor infrastructure, entrenched poverty, and fierce ethno-nationalism
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is demanding the revision or repeal of Uganda’s law imposing life sentences for homosexuality and same-sex-marriage
- A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ordered Google to take down the “Innocence of Muslims” film based on a copyright claim brought by an actress who briefly appears in the film
- A Kentucky church’s insistence on using venomous snakes in Sunday sermons – despite two fatal bites since 1995 – has local authorities trying to find a balance between public safety and religious freedom
- The rabbinic councils of all three Orthodox parties in Israel issued a statement prohibiting their yeshiva students from enlisting in the Israeli military
This month, Oxford University Press published The Morality of Defensive War edited by Cécile Fabre (Lincoln College, Oxford) and Seth Lazar (Australian National University). The publisher’s description follows.
Most of us take it for granted that wars in defence of one’s political community are the quintessential just wars. Indeed, while in recent years philosophers have subjected all of our other assumptions about just war theory to radical revision, this principle has emerged largely unscathed.
But what underpins the morality of defensive war? In this book, leading moral and political philosophers both show the profoundly challenging nature of that question, and advance novel answers to it. The first part exposes the deep tension between the individualist foundations of much contemporary philosophy and plausible conclusions about the morality of defensive war. The second part offers an individualist attempt to resolve that tension, while the third seeks to justify defensive war by appeal to more collectivist values.
This April, the University of Toronto Press will publish Religion in the Public Sphere: Canadian Case Studies edited by Solange Lefebvre (Université de Montréal) and Lori G. Beaman (University of Ottawa). The publisher’s description follows.
The place of religion in the public realm is the subject of frequent and lively debate in the media, among academics and policymakers, and within communities. With this edited collection, Solange Lefebvre and Lori G. Beaman bring together a series of case studies of religious groups and practices from all across Canada that re-examine and question the classic distinction between the public and private spheres.
Religion in the Public Sphere explores the public image of religious groups, legal issues relating to “reasonable accommodations,” and the role of religion in public services and institutions like health care and education. Offering a wide range of contributions from religious studies, political science, theology, and law, Religion in the Public Sphere presents emerging new models to explain contemporary relations between religion, civil society, the private sector, family, and the state.