From the beginning, when we started this center a dozen years ago (time flies!), one of the subjects we have most wanted to study is comparative law and religion. The US is not the only country to have to negotiate the competing demands of church and state, and observing how other countries manage those demands can be instructive.

A new book from Oxford University Press looks to be a worthy edition to the area: Worldly Politics and Divine Institutions: Contemporary Entanglements of Faith and Government, by political scientist Nashon Perez (Bar Ilan University). The book covers four of the cases that we have discussed here at the Forum and in Legal Spirits podcasts over the years. Here’s the description of the book from the publisher’s website:

The institutional entanglement of religion and government takes many forms, including direct governmental funding of religious associations, legal recognition, and governmental endorsement of religious symbols in public spaces. The entanglement of church and state remains contentious in many democratic countries today. In fact, in Europe and North America, there are a growing number of instances of governments becoming entwined with religious matters.

Worldly Politics and Divine Institutions explores the entanglement of religion and government in a comparative analysis of four cases within democratic countries: the British Jewish Free School (JFS) case, in which the U.K. Supreme Court forced a government-funded faith school to change its admission policies; The European Court of Human Rights decision in Martinez, in which the Catholic church kept its right to dismiss religion teachers within the Spanish public school system; The Lautsi case, in which the Italian government successfully defended its policy of mandating a crucifix in all public school classrooms – at the European Court of Human Rights; and the case of the Bladensburg World War I Memorial (often called the Peace Cross) in Maryland, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the cross’s public placement and maintenance funding does not violate the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment. Perez describes how these cases create complex, hybrid religious-statist institutions and outlines a novel framework for understanding these cases.

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