Around the Web

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

  •  In Lowe v. Mills, the 1st Circuit reversed in part a Maine district court’s dismissal of a suit byhealth care facility workers who were denied religious exemptions from the state’s COVID vaccine mandate. The court affirmed dismissal of the Title VII claims, but allowed plaintiffs’ Free Exercise and Equal Protection claims to go forward.
  • In Ratlliff v. Wycliffe Associates, Inc., the Middle District of Florida refused to dismiss a Title VII employment discrimination suit brought by a software developer who was fired from a Bible translation company after the company learned that he had entered a same-sex marriage. The court rejected the company’s RFRA and ministerial exception defenses.
  • In Tatel v. Mt. Lebanon School District (II)the Western District of Pennsylvania held that parents of first-grade students asserted plausible claims that their due process and free exercise rights were violated by a teacher who discussed gender identity with young students. The court found that the teacher’s discussion “conflicts with [the Plaintiffs’] sincerely held religious and moral beliefs.”
  • In Rolovich v. Washington State University, the Eastern District of Washington refused to dismiss a Title VII failure-to-accommodate claim by the head football coach of Washington State University. The coach was terminated after he refused to comply with the state’s Covid vaccine mandate on religious grounds, and the court found that he had done enough at the pleading stage to show a sincerely held religious belief.
  • The EEOC announced that it has filed a Title VII suit against Triple Canopy, Inc., for failing to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs. The employee maintained that he “did not belong to a formal religious denomination but nonetheless held a Christian belief that men must wear beards.” The employer discharged him because he could not obtain a supporting statement from a religious leader.
  • The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota challenging a Minnesota law that excludes religious universities from a program that allows high school students to obtain no-cost college credit. 

Loathing Ourselves

An interesting feature of a society built on the intellectual and cultural cornerstone of a progressive philosophy of history–the view that a society advances linearly toward a more universally just, rational, and equal world–is that it tends to excite hatred of the customs and practices of its past, imperfect self. The phenomenon is particularly acute for more mature, materially and socially successful societies, because it is these societies that can afford a well-to-do, highly educated, elite social stratum, which separates itself from those self-same customs and practices. The seeds of self-loathing are therefore contained within the successful society and a cyclical marker of its decline.

Something like this seems to be the thesis of an interesting new book: Western Self-Contempt: Oikophobia in the Decline of Civilizations (Cornell University Press) by Benedict Beckeld.

Western Self-Contempt travels through civilizations since antiquity, examining major political events and the literature of ancient Greece, Rome, France, Britain, and the United States, to study evidence of cultural self-hatred and its cyclical recurrence. Benedict Beckeld explores oikophobia, described by its coiner Sir Roger Scruton as “the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours,'” in its political and philosophical applications. Beckeld analyzes the theories behind oikophobia along with their historical sources, revealing why oikophobia is best described as a cultural malaise that befalls civilizations during their declining days.

Beckeld gives a framework for why today’s society is so fragmented and self-critical. He demonstrates that oikophobia is the antithesis of xenophobia. By this definition, the riots and civil unrest in the summer of 2020 were an expression of oikophobia. Excessive political correctness that attacks tradition and history is an expression of oikophobia. Beckeld argues that if we are to understand these behaviors and attitudes, we must understand oikophobia as a sociohistorical phenomenon.

Western Self-Contempt is a systematic analysis of oikophobia, combining political philosophy and history to examine how Western civilizations and cultures evolve from naïve and self-promoting beginnings to states of self-loathing and decline. Concluding with a philosophical portrait of an increasingly interconnected Western civilization, Beckeld reveals how past events and ideologies, both in the US and in Europe, have led to a modern culture of self-questioning and self-rejection.