A New Account of Tradition, its Erosion, and its Retrieval

The idea of tradition and traditions has been a major and ongoing scholarly interest of our Center over the years, particularly in our Tradition Project, its conferences, and its scholarly output. And we have some new projects cooking that will extend the Project in new directions. Here is a new book that appears to involve some of the themes we also have considered: Confusion in the West: Retrieving Tradition in the Modern and Post-Modern World (Cambridge UP) by historians Anna Rist and John Rist.

In their trenchant panoramic overview – ranging from antiquity to the present-day – John and Anna Rist write with authority and ennui about nothing less than the loss of the foundational culture of the West. The authors characterize this culture as the ‘original tradition’, viewing its erosion as one which has led to anxiety about the entire value of Western thought. The causes of the disintegration are discussed with an intensity rare in academe. Critics of modernity ordinarily concentrate on the Enlightenment and the book certainly offers deep analysis of Enlightenment thought. But it goes further. Thus the cruelty of modern totalitarianism is now depicted as in the spirit of the French Revolution and its implacable hostility to a vanished primordial heritage, while scientism, bureaucracy and consumerism appear as the only rivals to a threatening nihilism. The book argues that Western thought has created a set of conflicting moral and spiritual customs: to the detriment of coherence, in individual minds as in society and culture.

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

  • In Taylor v. Nelson, the Fifth Circuit held that Texas prison authorities who confiscated a female inmate’s hijab that exceeded the size permitted by prison policies could claim qualified immunity in a suit for damages against them. The court held that Plaintiff failed to identify a clearly established right that officials violated and that reasonable officials would not have understood that enforcing the policy on hijabs was unconstitutional. 
  • The Fifth Circuit recently heard oral arguments in Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra. In the case, a Texas federal district court permanently enjoined enforcing the anti-discrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act and implementing regulations against Christian health care providers and health plans in a manner that would require them to perform or provide insurance coverage for gender-transition procedures or abortions. 
  • A class action Settlement Agreement was recently filed in an Illinois federal district court in Doe 1 v. NorthShore University HealthSystem. The suit was brought on behalf of approximately 523 employees who requested, but were denied, a religious exemption or accommodation from the hospital system’s COVID vaccination mandate. The hospital system will pay $10,330,500 in damages if the court approves the settlement. 
  • In Archdiocese of Milwaukee v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections, a Wisconsin trial court issued a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction requiring the Wisconsin prison system to allow Catholic clergy the opportunity to conduct in-person religious services in state correctional institutions. While the clergy were initially restricted due to COVID-19 concerns, the court concluded that once the prison system allowed some external visitors to enter correctional institutions, it was required to honor the clergy’s statutory privilege to do so ­– and refusal to do so violated Plaintiff’s free exercise rights under the Wisconsin Constitution. 
  • Seven clergy members in Florida have filed lawsuits contending that Florida’s 15-week abortion ban violates their free exercise, free speech, and Establishment Clause rights. 
  • France’s Constitutional Council last month, in Union of Diocesan Associations of France and othersupheld the constitutionality of several provisions of law governing religious institutions in France. The Council upheld the requirement that a religious organization must register with a governmental official in order to enjoy benefits available specifically to a religious association. The Council found that this did not infringe freedom of association and did not hinder the free exercise of religion.