A New Book on North American Christianity

Just this week, the New York Times ran a very interesting essay on the changing demographic reality of global Christianity. Although for centuries Christianity has been strongest in the West, that is changing. Christianity’s center of gravity is shifting to the global South. And even in the developed countries of the West, immigration from the global South is changing Christianity. Tomorrow’s American Christianity will look quite different from today’s.

I’m sure these developments will figure in a forthcoming collection of essays from Edinburgh University Press, Christianity in North America. The editors are Kenneth Ross of Zomba Theological University (Malawi), Grace Kim of the Earlham School of Religion (Indiana) and Todd Johnson of the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Massachusetts). Looks to be a valuable reference source. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

Building on the success of EUP’s highly acclaimed Atlas of Global Christianity, this volume is the seventh in a series of reference works that takes the analysis of worldwide Christianity to a deeper level of detail. It focuses on Christianity in North America, covering every country and offering both reliable demographic information and original interpretative essays by locally based scholars and practitioners. It maps patterns of growth and decline, assesses major traditions and movements, analyzes key themes, and examines current trends. As a comprehensive account of the presence of Christianity in every part of North America, this volume will become a standard work of reference in its field.

Writeup of Last Week’s Symposium on the Nones

For all who are interested, here’s a writeup of our symposium last week on the rise of the Nones and its potential impact on the Religion Clauses. I participated in the symposium, which was co-sponsored by the St. John’s Law Review, along with Steve Collis of the Bech-Loughlin First Amendment Center at UT-Austin and Greg Sisk of the St. Thomas Law (Minnesota). We’re planning a podcast soon, so keep your ears open for that!

Call for Abstracts: Notre Dame Religious Liberty Initiative’s Law & Religion Junior Faculty Conference

The University of Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative invites junior faculty to submit abstracts of works in progress to be considered for presentation at a Law & Religion Junior Faculty Conference to be held at Notre Dame Law School’s Chicago Campus October 27-28, 2023:

We are looking for submissions of proposed articles that will make significant contributions in the field of law and religion. If your paper is selected, you will receive a $1,500 honorarium + travel costs, and dedicated commentary on your paper from a distinguished scholar in this field. You also commit that you will have a working draft circulated at least one month before the Conference. 

Qualifications to Submit:

  • Submissions are limited to unpublished papers by junior faculty, meaning tenure-track law faculty who have been teaching for no more than 10 years. Aspiring scholars who have not yet obtained their first tenure-track appointments, including teaching or other fellows and visiting assistant professors, are also welcome to submit papers for consideration.
  • Submissions may not have been accepted for publication by a journal, and the article must remain substantively revisable (for purposes of incorporating changes resulting from conference feedback).
  • There is a limit of one submission per person.
  • Co-authored pieces will be accepted only if both authors are junior faculty members. Any honorarium awarded on the basis of a co-authored piece must be shared.
  • Submissions must be no more than 500 words and are due by April 28, 2023.

You can submit abstracts here.

An Eminent Liberal on Liberalism

In January 2014 (nearly 10 years ago!), Mark and I were fortunate to host Professor Michael Walzer at the Colloquium in Law and Religion (co-hosted, that year, with our friend, Professor Michael Moreland, at Villanova). If memory serves, Professor Walzer gave a very interesting paper on what the Jewish law of war could take from the Catholic “Just War” tradition of thought. The paper was filled with insights about religious law, and some important differences between the Catholic and Jewish intellectual and spiritual inheritance (one of which concerned the difference between the Natural Law Tradition and the Noahide Covenant). It was an honor to have him with us.

But, of course, Professor Walzer’s most notable contributions have been in the area of liberal political thought (see, for example, here). Liberalism has had a rather more contested legacy in the 10 or so years since we last met with Prof. Walzer than it had in the generation and more before that. And so it is that Walzer has a new book that seems to grapple with some of that recent contestation, in what looks like an important statement and recapitulation of his own views. The book is The Struggle for a Decent Politics: On “Liberal” as an Adjective (Yale University Press). Congratulations to him.

There was a time when liberalism was an ism like any other, but that time, writes Michael Walzer, is gone. “Liberal” now conveys not a specific ideology but a moral stance, so the word is best conceived not as a noun but as an adjective—one is a “liberal democrat” or a “liberal nationalist.”
Walzer itemizes the characteristics described by “liberal” in an inventory of his own deepest political and moral commitments—among other things, to the principle of equality, to the rule of law, and to a pluralism that is both political and cultural. Unabashedly asserting that liberalism comprises a universal set of values (“they must be universal,” he writes, “since they are under assault around the world”), Walzer reminds us in this inspiring book why those values are worth fighting for.

Around the Web

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

  • The Supreme Court denied certiorari in Keister v. Bell. In that case, the 11th Circuit rejected an evangelical preacher’s challenge to an Alabama law which required a permit for any speaker who sought to participate in expressive conduct on university grounds. The preacher set up a banner, handed out religious literature, and preached through a megaphone without a permit on campus grounds.
  • In Mack v. Yost, the 3d Circuit held that qualified immunity can be asserted by prison officers in a suit brought against them under the RFRA, but the defendants had not shown facts that they were entitled to that defense. The plaintiff was an inmate of Muslim faith who would pray during his shift breaks. He alleged that officers would interfere with his prayers, so he eventually stopped praying.
  • In Dousa v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Southern District of California held that U.S. immigration officials violated a pastor’s free exercise rights by urging the Mexican government to deny him entry into Mexico. The pastor married immigrant couples with children who were coming to the United States so that they would not be separated upon entry into the country.
  • In Edgerton v. City of St. Augustine, the Middle District of Florida found that when the City relocated a Confederate Civil War monument, it did not violate the Establishment Clause or plaintiff’s free exercise rights. The plaintiff alleged that he would pray at the monument, and the relocation was hostile and offensive to those who used the monument to pray.
  • In DeJong v. Pembrook, the Southern District of Illinois denied an Illinois University’s motion to dismiss a former student’s Free Speech claim. The student posted her religious, political, and social views to her social media, which led to a “no-contact” order that prohibited her from having any contact with three students who complained about the posts.
  • The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom held a virtual hearing to discuss the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on religious freedom in Ukraine. The Commission discussed how Russia’s control of certain areas in Ukraine has led to the suppression of religious communities such as the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Muslim Crimean Tatars, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

More on Markets and Religion

Here at the Forum at elsewhere, my friend Nate Oman (William and Mary Law School) and I have debated the “doux commerce” thesis: the notion that the market, over time, softens disagreements about religion and other deep commitments. It’s a thesis with a proud lineage that goes back to Montesquieu and other Enlightenment figures. Nate is persuaded by the thesis and wrote a very good book about it. I’m less persuaded by the thesis and wrote an article critiquing it. But it’s been a fun and interesting debate.

I was delighted to see that Nate is now the co-editor of a new collection of essays from Routledge that continues the conversation. The book is Democracy, Religion, and Commerce: Private Markets and the Public Regulation of Religion. Nate’s co-editor is Kathleen Flake (University of Virginia). Here’s the description from the Routledge website:

This collection considers the relationship between religion, state, and market. In so doing, it also illustrates that the market is a powerful site for the cultural work of secularizing religious conflict. Though expressed as a simile, with religious freedom functioning like market freedom, “free market religion” has achieved the status of general knowledge about the nature of religion as either good or bad. It legislates good religion as that which operates according to free market principles: it is private, with no formal relationship to government; and personal: a matter of belief and conscience. As naturalized elements of historically contingent and discursively maintained beliefs about religion, these criteria have ethical and regulatory force. Thus, in culture and law, the effect of the metaphor has become instrumental, not merely descriptive. This volume seeks to productively complicate and invite further analysis of this easy conflation of democracy, religion, and the market. It invites scholars from a variety of disciplines to consider more intentionally the extent to which markets are implicated and illuminate the place of religion in public life. The book will be a valuable resource for researchers and academics working in the areas of law and religion, ethics, and economics.

Around the Web

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

  • In Ciraci v. J.M. Smucker Company, the Sixth Circuit held that a first amendment free-exercise claim could not be made by employees working for a federal contractor. The employees were denied a religious exemption from a Covid vaccine mandate but, because they were working for a federal contractor and not for the government itself, the court found that constitutional guarantees did not apply to them.
  • In Wrigley v. Romanick, the North Dakota Supreme Court declined to vacate a trial court’s preliminary injunction that barred enforcement of the state’s 2007 abortion ban, which went into effect when the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade last year. The court determined that a critical defect in the abortion ban was the absence of an exception for preserving the health of the mother.
  • Six Jewish parents and two Orthodox Jewish day schools filed a law suit in a California federal district court challenging the exclusion of sectarian schools from receiving funds made available to California user the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The complaint in Loffman v. California Department of Education alleges that the plaintiffs are entitled to equal treatment and should be afforded a portion of the generally available public funding necessary to provide education to students with disabilities.
  • A Christian preschool and the church that sponsors it filed a law suit in a Connecticut federal district court, challenging the removal of religious exemptions from Connecticuts’s statute requiring various vaccinations for preschool children. The complaint in Milford Christian Church v. Russell-Tucker alleges that the requirement violates free exercise, free speech, freedom of association, equal protection, and child rearing rights.
  • The governor of Utah signed HB467, which requires that all abortions performed after January 1, 2024 be performed in hospitals rather than abortion clinics. It goes on to create an exception for rape, incest, and for pregnant females under the age of 14. However, all these abortions are only allowed to be performed before 18 weeks of pregnancy. 
  • The article, Faith After the Pandemic: How COVID-19 Changed American Religion, published on the Survey Center on American Life website, discusses the post-Covid increase in the number of individuals identifying as religiously unaffiliated.

The Disintegration of Free Speech?

There is a growing consensus that the principle of free speech is in crisis, whether the dangers are coming primarily from government actors, or private actors intent on suppressing dissenting views, or both (matters on which there is considerable disagreement). There is also growing anxiety about the sustainability of academic freedom, as well as the associated structure of tenure. There is even doubt and intense disagreement about the basic function and purpose of the university. Here is a new book discussing these developments in historical perspective, The Collapse of Freedom of Expression: Reconstructing the Ancient Roots of Modern Liberty (Notre Dame Press) by Jordi Pujol.

The topic of free speech is rarely addressed from a historical, philosophical, or theological perspective. In The Collapse of Freedom of Expression, Jordi Pujol explores both the modern concept of the freedom of expression based on the European Enlightenment and the deficiencies inherent in this framework. Modernity has disregarded the traditional roots of the freedom of expression drawn from Christianity, Greek philosophy, and Roman law, which has left the door open to the various forms of abuse, censorship, and restrictions seen in contemporary public discourse. Pujol proposes that we rebuild the foundations of the freedom of expression by returning to older traditions and incorporating both the field of pragmatics of language and theological and ethical concepts on human intentionality as new, complementary disciplines.

Pujol examines emblematic cases such as Charlie Hebdo, free speech on campus, and online content moderation to elaborate on the tensions that arise within the modern concept of freedom of expression. The book explores the main criticisms of the contemporary liberal tradition by communitarians, libertarians, feminists, and critical race theorists, and analyzes the gaps and contradictions within these traditions. Pujol ultimately offers a reconstruction project that involves bridging the chasm between the secular and the sacred and recognizing that religion is a font of meaning for millions of people, and as such has an inescapable place in the construction of a pluralist public sphere.

Video of “The Role of Tradition in Constitutional Law”

Here is video of this panel discussion yesterday with Professors Walsh, Young, and me at Catholic University’s Center for the Study of Originalism and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. I enjoyed the exchange very much.

Video of Last Week’s Panel at Cardozo

The Floersheimer Center at Cardozo Law School has posted a video (below) of last week’s panel discussion on “The Supreme Court and New Frontiers in Religious Liberty,” in which I was honored to participate, along with Nelson Tebbe (Cornell), Elizabeth Reiner Platt (Columbia Law), and Giselle Klapper (Sikh Coalition) . Thanks again to Michael Pollak, Hui Yang, and the Floersheimer team for having me–and for hosting a cordial and productive exchange of disparate views in the best tradition of the legal academy.