Movsesian on Kresta on Tocqueville

I was happy to chat again last week with Al Kresta of Ave Maria Radio about the recent Wall Street Journal poll showing a decline in interest in community, country, and tolerance–and how the poll shows that Tocqueville was basically correct. A link to the interview is here.

Around the Web

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

  • In Kluge v. Brownsburg Community School Corp., the Seventh Circuit rejected a school teacher’s Title VII challenge after she was fired because she refused, on religious grounds, to comply with the school’s policy of calling transgender students by their names registered in the school’s official database.
  • An Arizona federal district court held a hearing in Arizona Christian University v. Washington Elementary School District. The university alleges that by terminating a student-teaching partnership between the university and the school district because of the university’s asserted religious beliefs, the school district violated the university students’ free exercise rights.
  • In Bolonchuk v. Cherry Creek Nursing Center/ Nexion Health, a federal magistrate judge in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado recommended dismissal of a suit brought by a former nursing home healthcare employee who was terminated after she refused on religious grounds to comply with her employer’s Covid vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The court found that the employer did not violate the employee’s First Amendment rights because it was not a state actor
  • In Hilo Bay Marina, LLC v. State of Hawaii, a Hawaii trial court found that a deed restriction requiring land to be used solely for church purposes did not violate the Establishment Clause, applying the Supreme Court’s “historical practices and understandings” test from Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.
  • In Montgomery v. St. John’s United Church of Christ, the plaintiffs’ claims that they were sexually harassed by the lay leader of the church and subsequently terminated because they resisted the conduct was dismissed by an Ohio state appellate court. The court dismissed the plaintiffs’ hostile work environment claims because of the ministerial exception, which exempts religious institutions from federal employment discrimination laws.
  • in Carrollton First United Methodist Church, Inc. v. Trustees of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, Inc., 185 Methodist churches filed suit in a Georgia state trial court against their parent body in an attempt to expedite their disaffiliation process amid an intra-faith dispute over same-sex marriage. The lawsuit alleges that the parent body is attempting to slow disaffiliation procedures so as to prevent disaffiliating congregations from keeping their real and personal property.

On the Oxford Movement

The Oxford Movement was an early nineteenth century school of religious thought that aimed to reinfuse Anglicanism with the Catholic tradition–to create an Anglo-Catholicism. Here is one of its spiritual leaders, St. John Henry Newman, with a suggestive description from his Apologia Pro Vita Sua:

Now and then a man of note appeared in the Pulpit or Lecture Rooms of the University, who was a worthy representative of the more religious and devout Anglicans. These belonged chiefly to the High-Church party; for the party called Evangelical never has been able to breathe freely in the atmosphere of Oxford, and at no time has been conspicuous, as a party, for talent or learning. But of the old High Churchmen several exerted some sort of anti-liberal influence in the place, at least from time to time, and that influence of an intellectual nature. Among these especially may be mentioned Mr. John Miller, of Worcester College, who preached the Bampton Lecture in the year 1817. But, as far as I know, he who turned the tide, and brought the talent of the University round to the side of the old theology, and against what was familiarly called “march-of-mind,” was Mr. Keble. In and from Keble the mental activity of Oxford took that contrary direction which issued in what was called Tractarianism.

A “historical Christianity,” as Cardinal Newman put it in another work. The twentieth century historian, Christopher Dawson, describes the coming of this school in this newly published volume that should be of great interest, The Spirit of the Oxford Movement (Catholic University of America Press), with an introduction by Professor Kenneth L. Parker.

Dawson and John Henry Newman were Oxonians and both were converts to Catholicism; both stood against progressive and liberal movements within society. In both ideologies, Dawson saw a pathway that had once led to the French Revolution. Newman, for Dawson, was a kindred spirit.

In The Spirit of the Oxford Movement, Dawson goes beyond a mere retelling of the events of 1833 – 1845. He shows us the prime movers who sought a deeper understanding of the Anglican tradition: the quixotic Hurrell Froude, for instance, who “had none of the English genius for compromise or the Anglican faculty of shutting the eyes to unpleasant facts.” It was Froude who brought Newman and Keble together and who helped them understand each other. In many ways, Dawson sees these three as the true embodiment of the Tractarian ethos.

Dawson probes deeply, though, to provide a richer, clearer understanding of the intellectual underpinnings of the Oxford Movement, revealing its spiritual raison d’être. We meet a group of gifted like-minded thinkers, albeit with sharp disagreements, who mock outsiders and each other, who pepper their letters with Latin, and forever urge each other on. Newman came to believe, as did Dawson, that the only intellectually coherent bastion against secular culture was religion, and the “on” to which they were urged was the Catholic church. The Spirit of the Oxford Movement provides insights into why Newman, and Dawson, came to this understanding.