I was delighted to speak at a roundtable on law and religion at Lomonosov Moscow State University this morning, along with faculty colleagues from Russia, Greece, Canada, Italy and Israel. Comparative studies add so much to the understanding of church-state issues, and it is always striking how the same issues come up in so many cultures–though not the same answers. The questions from other scholars and the student participants were great. Thanks for Prof. Gayane Davidyan at Lomonosov for inviting me!
UPDATE: For anyone interested, Lomonosov has now posted the YouTube Video of the event:
What is the anthropology–the account of human nature and human flourishing–that grounds the American law of bioethics? Is it an appealing one, or are there problems with it? In our latest podcast with Professor O. Carter Snead of the University of Notre Dame Law School, we probe these and related questions in his recently released book, What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics (Harvard University Press). Professor Snead discussed several chapters with us and our students in our Colloquium in Law and Religion. Listen in as we range over some of the deep questions covered by this important new book!
At the First Things site today, I have an essay on how a broad, ecumenical Christianity will feature in a new, multiethnic conservative movement. Here’s a sample:
The factors Salam identifies no doubt figure in minorities’ increasing affinity for conservative politics. But I think his explanation misses another important factor: conservative Christianity. The media typically presents conservative Christians as monolithically white, but that is not the case. For example, about one-quarter of evangelicals are members of racial and ethnic minorities, and Republicans apparently did very well among them. According to Gaston Espinoza, a researcher at Claremont McKenna College who conducted a survey of Latino voters, it was “Latino evangelicals” who “helped Trump to do better than anyone expected in Texas … and in Florida.”
I don’t know of studies that analyze minority voters in terms of church attendance, but in the general population, religious observance correlates with voting for the GOP, and that pattern presumably holds for many minorities as well. According to the AP Vote Cast Survey, people who attend church regularly—up to a few times a month—broke solidly for Trump, 54 percent to 45 percent. People who attend church once a week or more voted 61 percent for Trump. By contrast, people who never attend church went strongly for Biden, 63 percent to 32 percent. (This last figure is consistent with surveys that reveal that more than two-thirds of Democrats “never attend religious services.”) To be sure, differences exist among minority communities; black Christians, for example, continue to vote Democrat in very large numbers. Still, it is reasonable to think that, with respect to minorities, as with respect to the American public generally, the religiously observant tend to vote Republican.
If Republicans are to become a multiethnic, middle-class movement, a popular, ecumenical Christianity of the sort I observed at the Museum of the Bible will likely have an important place in it. In fact, the religious identity of the movement need not be exclusively Christian. Americans are famously non-sectarian when it comes to public religion, and it’s possible to imagine a political coalition of the traditionally religious from all faith communities. Although good studies are difficult to find, some suggest that Orthodox Jews increasingly vote Republican. And President Trump drew one-third of Muslim voters in 2020, a large increase over 2016.
A programming note: on Wednesday, November 25, I will participate in a roundtable on law and religion sponsored by the Faculty of Law at Lomonosov Moscow State University. The roundtable, organized by Lomonosov Professor Gayane Davidyan, will take place online starting at 17:30 Moscow time. Visitors are welcome. Please use the You Tube link here. The roster for the roundtable, along with the titles of the presentations, is below. Stop by and say hello!
Mark Movsesian, Frederick A. Whitney Professor, Co-Director of Center for Law & Religion, St. John’s Law School, United States, Church-State Cases at the US Supreme Court in 2020
Lina Papadopoulou, Associate Professor, Law School, Academic Coordinator of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence “European Constitution and Religion”, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, God and the Constitution in a country (Greece) with a prevailing religion
Andrea Pin, Associate Professor, Department of Public, International and Community Law, University of Padua, Italy, The Constitution as an ID
Kathryn Chan, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria, Canada, The source and scope of religious freedom in Canada
Xavier Barre, Ph.D in Law, Avocat au barreau de Paris, Member of New York Bar and Advocat of Moscow Regional bar
Anton Kanevsky, Associate Professor of Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, Attorney in Jerusalem, The Divine Name in Earthly Affairs: Non-specific Talmudic Legal Principles and Israeli Practice
Gayane Davidyan, Associate Professor, School of Law, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Director Center of Law and Religion, Can God be Constitutional?
I’ve learned a great deal from Professor Steven B. Smith’s work on political philosophy over the years. A few years back, I watched his terrific lectures (and tried to keep up with the reading!) which are available to everybody, and then read his fine book, Modernity and Its Discontents.
Early next year, Professor Smith has a new book in the offing: Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes (Yale University Press) that is worth highlighting. For the law and religion crowd, I’m sure this will be a timely and important contribution on the question of balancing various competing loyalties. Here is the description.
The concept of patriotism has fallen on hard times. What was once a value that united Americans has become so politicized by both the left and the right that it threatens to rip apart the social fabric. On the right, patriotism has become synonymous with nationalism and an “us versus them” worldview, while on the left it is seen as an impediment to acknowledging important ethnic, religious, or racial identities and a threat to cosmopolitan globalism.
Steven B. Smith reclaims patriotism from these extremist positions and advocates for a patriotism that is broad enough to balance loyalty to country against other loyalties. Describing how it is a matter of both the head and the heart, Smith shows how patriotism can bring the country together around the highest ideals of equality and is a central and ennobling disposition that democratic societies cannot afford to do without.
Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, involving a dispute between Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia, a foster-care placement agency, and the City of Philadelphia with respect to the former’s request for a religious accommodation from a local nondiscrimination provision in carrying out foster care placement. In this podcast, Mark and I discuss the major themes that emerged in the argument and offer a few predictions about the result and reasoning the Court might adopt. Listen in!
Congratulations to Center board member Don Drakeman for his new book, available later this month, The Hollow Core of Constitutional Theory: Why We Need the Framers (CUP 2020)! Don has been making the case for an approach to originalism that looks to original meaning as well as original intention for several years. I know that I have benefited from his work greatly over the years.
More later, when I’ve had a chance to read the book. But for the moment, wonderful news.