The Weekly Five

In this week’s list, articles on comparative law and religion, freedom of association, special protection for religion, and constitutional faith:

1. Larry Catá Backer (Pennsylvania State University – Dickinson School of Law), The Crisis of Secular Liberalism and the Constitutional State in Comparative Perspective: Religion, Rule of Law, and Democratic Organization of Religion Privileging States. This essay in comparative constitutional law addresses the “privileging” of institutional religion in political life. Solicitude for individual religious belief and practice is not the problem, the author suggests, but the “willingness to allow institutional religion a role in the political life of the state.” The author surveys the situation in foreign countries for “lessons that might be considered by the United States as it seeks to carve a privileged role for religion while protecting its status as something special that cannot be touched by politics.”

2. Neil J. Foster (Newcastle Law School – Australia), Christian Youth Camp liable for declining booking from homosexual support group. In this case comment, Australian legal scholar Neil J. Foster critiques a recent Australian appellate court judgment fining a Christian youth camping organization for refusing to book an event by a homosexual support group. Foster argues that the case is significant, among other reasons, for equating discrimination based on homosexual conduct with discrimination based on sexual orientation, and for holding that corporations are not “persons” who can exercise religion under Australian law.

3. Christopher P. Guzelian (Thomas Jefferson), False Speech: Quagmire? In this essay, the author describes the difficulties courts have in resolving “false speech” cases and argues that the difficulties result from disagreements about the nature of objective truth. Although the author does not advocate a coerced “biblical or natural law” jurisprudence, he does counsel a retreat from nihilism to “a certain kind of optimistic faith.”

4. Michael Stokes Paulsen (University of St. Thomas School of Law), Is Religious Freedom Irrational? This is a review of Brian Leiter’s recent book, Why Tolerate Religion? Paulsen argues that Leiter’s denial of special status for religion is based on “a surprisingly shallow, philosophically unsophisticated understanding of religious belief.” Paulsen writes, “religious belief, at least in certain forms, is entirely rational and reasonable and … the decision of the framing generation to protect specifically religious conscience and exercise is likewise entirely rational.”

5. Nelson Tebbe (Brooklyn Law School), Associations and the Constitution: Four Questions about Four Freedoms. This is a response to a recent article by John Inazu, in which Inazu argues that the four basic freedoms in the First Amendment—speech, press, religion, and assembly—together support the concept of “strong pluralism,” which would generally allow associations to limit membership on any ground, including race. Tebbe tackles the theoretical underpinnings of Inazu’s argument and questions whether Inazu’s “is the most principled and pragmatic solution available” to the problem of balancing associational and individual rights.

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