On Justice Scalia’s “Teaching About the Law”

In anticipation of the new academic year, I have a short piece over at Liberty Law on a piece by Justice Scalia that (I think) has received almost no commentary, with the exception of a very good essay by Adam White, on “Teaching About the Law.” Here’s the beginning:

There is not very much written by Justice Antonin Scalia that has gone largely unnoticed. But thanks to Adam White (and this fine article of his), I recently read this obscure 1987 essay by the late Justice: “Teaching About the Law” in the Christian Legal Society Quarterly. As we are just over a month away from the beginning of the law school year, it is a propitious moment to share its ideas.The principal question Scalia addresses is this: what ought a law professor who was so inclined teach law students about the Christian attitude toward the secular law? But the answers Scalia offers are of interest because of what they say to, and how they challenge, both the prevailing progressive and libertarian pedagogical frameworks that respectively structure much of law teaching.

Scalia’s first answer is that Christians have a moral obligation to obey the secular law. Drawing from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Scalia writes that “the first and most important Christian truth to be taught about the law” is that “those knaves and fools whom we voted against, and who succeeded in hoodwinking a majority of the electorate, will enact and promulgate laws and directives which, unless they contravene moral precepts, divine law enjoins us to obey.”

One feature of this answer fairly aligns with the libertarian view of law and politics: for the Christian, good government may be limited government, imperfect government, and perpetually monitored and checked government. But another feature of it is in some tension with the libertarian position: for good government is, in fact, good; so good that it has a moral claim to our obedience.

Event at Georgetown University: “Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities under the Islamic State” (July 28)

On July 28, Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project is hosting a conference entitled “Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities under the Islamic State.” Panelists at the conference include Knox Thames (State Department Office of International Religious Freedom), Breen Tahseen (Iraqi Diplomat), David Saperstein (U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom), and Saad Salloum (Masarat Religious Freedom Organization). The Religious Freedom Project’s description of the event follows:

In March 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the Islamic State (ISIS) is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, Shi’a Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minority groups in Syria and Iraq. In addition to these and other crimes against humanity, ISIS is also engaging in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kurds and even Sunni Muslims. Unfortunately, months later, ISIS and other violent extremist groups continue to target and terrorize their victims through rape, enslavement, and murder, while religious and cultural sites are systematically looted and destroyed.

To inform policymakers about the continuing travail of religious and ethnic minorities threatened by ISIS, and to galvanize long-term thinking about addressing this crisis, the Religious Freedom Project is hosting a daylong conference at Georgetown University.

During the conference, representatives of the targeted communities will share their personal experiences of religious persecution and their recommendations for policymakers. Among the questions they will engage are: What are the immediate security challenges posed by ISIS? What can we do now to ensure the viability of vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq and Syria? What steps need to be taken to ensure religious freedom, and how is religious freedom a possible antidote to future violence? Community representatives will be joined by distinguished policymakers, activists, and scholars.

Polat, “Regime Change in Contemporary Turkey”

In September, the University of Edinburgh Press will release Regime Change in Contemporary Turkey: Politics, Rights, Mimesis by Necati Polat (Middle East Technical University, Ankara). The publisher’s description follows:

Regime Change in TurkeyTurkey has undergone a series of upheavals in its political regime from the mid-19th century. This book details the most recent change, locating it in its broader historical setting. Beginning with the Justice and Development Party’s rule from late 2002, supported by a broad informal coalition that included liberals, the book shows how the former Islamists gradually acquired full power between 2007 and 2011. It then describes the subsequent phase, looking at politics and rights under the amorphous new order.

This is the first scholarly yet accessible assessment of this historic change, placing it in the larger context of political modernisation in the country over the past 150 or so years.

“Islamic Thought in China (Lipman, ed.)

Islamic Thought in ChinaThis month, Edinburgh University Press released Islamic Thought in China: Sino-Muslim Intellectual Evolution from the 17th to the 21st Century edited by Johnathan N. Lipman (Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts). The publisher’s description follows:

How can people belong simultaneously to two cultures, originating in two different places and expressed in two different languages, without alienating themselves from either? Muslims have lived in the Chinese culture area for 1400 years, and the intellectuals among them have long wrestled with this problem. Unlike Persian, Turkish, Urdu, or Malay, the Chinese language never adopted vocabulary from Arabic to enable a precise understanding of Islam’s religious and philosophical foundations. Islam thus had to be translated into Chinese, which lacks words and arguments to justify monotheism, exclusivity, and other features of this Middle Eastern religion. Even in the 21st century, Muslims who are culturally Chinese must still justify their devotion to a single God, avoidance of pork, and their communities’ distinctiveness, among other things, to sceptical non-Muslim neighbours and an increasingly intrusive state.

The essays in this collection narrate the continuing translations and adaptations of Islam and Muslims in Chinese culture and society through the writings of Sino-Muslim intellectuals. Progressing chronologically and interlocking thematically, they help the reader develop a coherent understanding of the intellectual issues at stake.