This week’s collection focuses on religious law and critiques. Steve Smith argues that Ronald Dworkin misunderstands theistic versions of morality; Oren Gross contrasts Jewish and secular ideas about amending the law; Martin Gardner addresses what Mormon Church doctrine has to say about retributive punishment; and Gustavo Kaufman takes on the UK Supreme Court’s decision in the Jews Free School Case. We also include Ian Bartrum’s assessment of the US Supreme Court’s grant of cert in Town of Greece, the legislative prayer case.
1. Steven Douglas Smith (San Diego), Is God Irrelevant? Smith reviews Ronald Dworkin’s posthumous work, Religion without God. Smith maintains that Dworkin misunderstands the disagreement between theists and non-theists. The divide is not between people with different views of morality, he says, but “between those who think that the universe, including the world of humanity, is the product of a loving and intelligent author or designer who created it according to a plan and for a good purpose, on the one hand, and on the other those who reject the belief in any guiding intelligence and any encompassing and mindful plan. That is a difference with profound implications for most of the great issues of life (including, almost certainly, issues implicating law and politics).”
2. Ian C. Bartrum (University of Nevada-Las Vegas), The Curious Case of Legislative Prayer: Town of Greece v. Galloway. Ian Bartrum considers why the Supreme Court granted cert in this case, currently under review, and why the Solicitor General has sided with the town. He infers that some of the Justices may hope to use the case to abandon the endorsement test, and that the Administration has intervened to limit the potential damage.
3. Oren Gross (University of Minnesota), Venerate, Amend … and Violate. This paper compares secular law, which people may amend to meet new circumstances, with divine law, which, in theory, people may not amend. Using Jewish law as an example, Professor Gross examines the way in which rabbis have justified deviating from the text of religious law in extraordinary situations.
4. Gustavo Ariel Kaufman (Independent), Racial Discrimination vs. Religious Freedom in the JFS Decision. Kaufman reviews the UK Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in the “Jews Free School case” from 2009, which held that a Jewish school’s decision to exclude a child based on parentage violated racial anti-discrimination laws. Kaufman argues that the court’s decision disparages religious freedom and contradicts European law.
5. Martin R. Gardner (University of Nebraska), Viewing the Criminal Sanction through Latter-Day Saint Thought. This paper addresses criminal law from the perspective of the doctrines of the Mormon Church. Specifically, the author argues that the church’s doctrines of agency and pre-mortal existence support some aspects of retributive theory.