Religious Accommodations: A New Comparative Study

Religious accommodations pose difficult questions for liberalism, since they require the balancing of two principles that are fundamental to it: freedom of conscience and equality before the law. A new book from Bloomsbury, Religious Accommodation and Its Limits, approaches the topic from a comparative perspective. The author is Farrah Raza (Pembroke College, Oxford). Here is the publisher’s description:

On what grounds should religious accommodation claims be limited? When do religious claims harm the autonomy of others?

This book proposes an original model of religious accommodation which can be applied in secular liberal democracies where religious diversity has been a hotly contested issue. Addressing the complex question of limitations to the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief and how these limitations might be determined, it examines how religious claims can harm the autonomy of others and emphasises the need for an appropriate balancing of competing interests. Drawing on a range of case study examples from jurisdictions including the US, Canada, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Union’s Court of Justice, the UK, Germany and France, this is a timely contribution to the debate on how a legal duty or policy approach in favour of religious accommodation can be applied in practice. Moreover, the proposed model offers criteria that may be used to guide the implementation of equality and diversity policies in contexts such as employment and education. The book will be of interest to academics, legal practitioners and policy-makers in the field.

Around the Web

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

  • In Mahmoud v. McKnight, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland refused to allow parents to opt their public-school children out of classroom reading and discussion of books with LGBTQ themes because the books’ messages violate the parents’ sincerely held religious beliefs. 
  • In Country Mill Farms, LLC v. City of East Lansingthe Eastern District of Michigan held that the city violated the Free Exercise rights of Country Mill Farms when the city refused to invite Country Mill to be a vendor at East Lansing’s Farmer’s Market because Country Mill violated the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance by refusing, for religious reasons, to rent its farm out for same-sex weddings. The court held that the discrimination ban was not generally applicable because exemptions in the ordinance allow the city to do business with firms that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. 
  • In Satz v. Satz, a New Jersey state appellate court upheld a trial court’s order to enforce a marital settlement agreement that the parties entered into in connection with their divorce proceedings. One provision in the agreement obligated the parties to comply with recommendations of a Jewish religious court (beis din) that required the husband to give a get (Jewish bill of divorce) to the wife. The husband’s argument that the trial court’s enforcement of the agreement violated the Establishment Clause was rejected by the appellate court.
  • In Deutsche Evangelisch Lutherische Zions Gemeinde v. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a New York state trial court dismissed a suit brought by a German Lutheran church in Brooklyn that claims it broke away from its parent bodies because of the parent bodies’ stance accepting same-sex marriage and ordination of gay clergy. The church asked the court to determine that its membership with the parent bodies was terminated and that the parent bodies could not take control of their church property.
  • In a press release, the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco announced that it has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Reorganization in order to resolve over 500 lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse brought under California Assembly Bill 218, which re-opened the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims that would otherwise be time barred.
  • The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting to address the worsening situation–and burgeoning humanitarian crisis–in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan took control of the only road leading to Armenia, which has created unlivable conditions in the region, leaving the Armenian Christian population without food and medicine.

Pentecostalism and Education

Private religious education and home schooling are booming, a consequence of recent Supreme Court opinions on state funding, the failure of public schools during the Covid pandemic, the ongoing culture wars, and many other factors. One thinks of private religious education mostly in terms of traditional religious bodies and, within Christianity, in terms of Catholics and Evangelicals. A forthcoming book from Rowman and Littlefield suggests that Pentecostal Christianity, which is growing fast across the globe, will also be important in the private religious schools movement. The book is Pentecostal and Charismatic Education: Renewalist Education Wherever It Is Found, by William K. Kay (King’s College London) and Ewen H. Butler (Regent University). Here’s the publisher’s description:

The enormous Pentecostal and charismatic movement—often called Renewalist—has highlighted the power of the Holy Spirit but has rarely emphasized the movement’s educational range and reach. Formal and informal teaching in many schools, colleges, seminaries, church campuses, homes, and parachurches all contribute to a scattered and varied teaching impetus. Pentecostal and Charismatic Education: Renewalist Education Wherever it is Found looks at education through the eyes of those who see God at work in the world through the church and beyond. The book explores questions like: What should parents look for in a child’s education and what choices do they have? What educational role can churches have? This book offers a worldview invested with traditional Christian theology, but also enlivened by an understanding of the continuing outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Podcast on Karabakh

Thanks to EWTN’s Kresta in the Afternoon for having me on again this week to discuss the situation in Karabakh, where Azerbaijan is starving 120,000 Armenian Christians in an ethnic-cleansing campaign. You can listen to the podcast here:

Christianity as Knowledge Creator

Here is what looks like a fascinating new book on how societies come to generate knowledge. The argument appears to be that a Christian theological framework in the late Roman Empire influenced many other domains of knowledge production and acquisition, including literature, law, politics, science, and others. It is a book about the relationship of Christianity and the creation of knowledge and meaning in other areas of human life.

The book is The Christianization of Knowledge in Late Antiquity: Intellectual and Material Transformations (Cambridge University Press), by Mark Letteney.

The Christianization of Knowledge in Late Antiquity: Intellectual and Material Transformations traces the beginning of Late Antiquity from a new angle. Shifting the focus away from the Christianization of people or the transformation of institutions, Mark Letteney interrogates the creation of novel and durable structures of knowledge across the Roman scholarly landscape, and the embedding of those changes in manuscript witnesses. Letteney explores scholarly productions ranging from juristic writings and legal compendia to theological tractates, military handbooks, historical accounts, miscellanies, grammatical treatises, and the Palestinian Talmud. He demonstrates how imperial Christianity inflected the production of truth far beyond the domain of theology — and how intellectual tools forged in the fires of doctrinal controversy shed their theological baggage and came to undergird the great intellectual productions of the Theodosian Age, and their material expressions. Letteney’s volume offers new insights and a new approach to answering the perennial question: What does it mean for Rome to become Christian?

Around the Web

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

  • In St. Augustine School v. Underly, the 7th Circuit addressed a long-standing dispute over transportation benefits for private religious schools in Wisconsin. While a state statute allows these benefits for only one school from a single organizational entity in each district, the court had previously ruled that the state Superintendent wrongfully denied St. Augustine School these benefits. However, in the latest decision, the 7th Circuit declined to address federal constitutional issues the plaintiffs raised, emphasizing that the court would not provide an advisory opinion on an unnecessary theory, and upheld the district court’s declaratory judgment without an injunction or damages.
  • In Spirit of Aloha Temple v. County of Maui, a Hawaii federal district court ruled in favor of the Spirit of Aloha Temple regarding their special use permit on agriculturally-zoned land for religious purposes. The court decided the state did not meet the strict scrutiny standard, but other issues, including whether the denial imposed a significant religious burden, remained unresolved. The case emphasizes that under RLUIPA, there must be evidence of intent to discriminate when regulations are neutral.
  • The Catholic Archdiocese of Denver and two Catholic schools filed a lawsuit in Colorado federal district court against restrictions in Colorado’s universal preschool funding program. The suit, St. Mary Catholic Parish in Littleton v. Roy, argues that the program’s conditions infringe on their free exercise and free speech rights by not allowing preference for Catholic families and imposing non-discrimination requirements that conflict with Catholic teachings. The program’s rules also challenge the schools’ stances on matters of marriage, gender, sexuality, and biological sex-based regulations.
  • In Chesley v. City of Mesquite, a Nevada federal district court dismissed former police chief Joseph Chesley’s lawsuit against the city and its former city manager for circulating damaging rumors about him, including to his church members. Chesley claimed that the rumors and the city’s failure to stop them violated his free exercise rights by tarnishing his reputation within his church and hindering his worship experience. The court rejected this claim, noting that the subjective harm to his reputation didn’t amount to a “substantial burden” on his religious rights.
  • In Cristello v. St. Theresa School, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Catholic school that terminated an unmarried art teacher who became pregnant, due to her violation of an employment agreement to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church, which agreement prohibited premarital sex. The teacher had claimed pregnancy and marital status discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The court determined that the school was protected by the LAD’s exception for religious organizations, asserting that such decisions can be made using neutral principles of law without entangling courts in religious matters.
  • Following accusations of blasphemy against a young Christian man, a mob in Faisalabad, Pakistan, attacked multiple Christian homes and churches, setting them ablaze. The outburst of violence was triggered when torn pages from the Quran with alleged blasphemous content were found near the Christian community, leading local religious leaders to call for protests.
  • The Nicaraguan government has seized the University of Central America, a prominent Jesuit-run institution, alleging it to be a “center of terrorism.” This move is the latest in a series of crackdowns on the Catholic Church, opposition figures, and academic institutions by President Ortega’s regime, with over 26 Nicaraguan universities confiscated since December 2021. The widespread confiscations and expulsions, targeting churches, civic groups, and opposition members, reflect a broader erosion of democratic norms and a suppression of civil society in Nicaragua.

A New Collection on Islam in Europe

The idea that Europe, at least Western Europe, is “post Christian” is not a new one. The phrase typically means that Christianity no longer is the default option for Western Europeans. In the new Europe, Christianity is just one of many religious and non-religious commitments out there. One such commitment, of course, is Islam, the religion of millions of people who live in Western Europe today. A new collection from Bloomsbury, Islam, Religious Liberty, and Constitutionalism in Europe, explores the challenges that Islam poses to church-state relations in contemporary Europe. The editors are our friend Mark Hill (Cardiff University) and Lina Papadopoulou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki); one of the contributors is our friend and Tradition Project member, Andrea Pin (Padova). Looks very worthwhile. The publisher’s description follows:

For centuries, since the Roman Empire’s adoption of Christianity, the continent of Europe has been perceived as something of a Christian fortress. Today, the increase in the number of Muslims living in Europe and the prominence of Islamic belief pose questions not only for Europe’s religious traditions but also for its constitutional make up. This book examines these challenges within the legal and political framework of Europe. 

The volume’s contributors range from academics at leading universities to former judges and politicians. Its twenty chapters focus on constitutional challenges, human rights with a focus on religious freedom, and securitisation and Islamophobia, while adopting supranational and comparative approaches. 

This book will appeal not merely to law students in the United Kingdom and the European Union, but to anyone involved in diplomacy and international relations, including political scientists, lobbyists, and members of NGOs. It explores these contested relationships to open up new spaces in how we think about religious freedom and co-existence in Europe and the crucial role that Islam has had, and continues to have, in its development.

Gray on Liberalism

John Gray has been an insightful critic of various features of, or tendencies in, political liberalism for decades. Whether it be the problem of evil in the modern world, the extent to which law is merely an artifact of state power rather than “a free-standing institution towering majestically above the chaos of human conflict,” the stubborn hope of a “secular eschatology,” or the by now largely discarded “agonistic liberalism” of Isaiah Berlin, Gray’s arguments have been consistently interesting and provocative (though rather bleak).

Here is a new book out this November by Gray targeting the heart of his work over the years, though one with evident (and, I think, rightful) praise for one of the major figures in liberalism, Thomas Hobbes: The New Leviathans: Thoughts After Liberalism (Macmillan). Sure to be greatly engaging and provocative.

Ever since its publication in 1651, Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan has unsettled and challenged how we understand the world. Condemned and vilified by each new generation, his cold political vision continues to see through any number of human political and ethical vanities.

In his wonderfully stimulating book The New Leviathans, John Gray allows us to understand the world of the 2020s with all its contradictions, moral horrors, and disappointments. The collapse of the USSR ushered in an era of near apoplectic triumphalism in the West: a genuine belief that a rational, liberal, well-managed future now awaited humankind and that tyranny, nationalism, and unreason lay in the past. Since then, so many terrible events have occurred and so many poisonous ideas have flourished, and yet our liberal certainties treat them as aberrations that will somehow dissolve. Hobbes would not be so confident.

Filled with fascinating and challenging observations, The New Leviathans is a powerful meditation on historical and current folly. As a species we always seem to be struggling to face the reality of base and delusive human instincts. Might a more self-aware, realistic, and disabused ethics help us?

Around the Web

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

  • In We the Patriots USA, Inc. v. Connecticut Office of Early Childhood Development, the 2d Circuit upheld the constitutionality of Connecticut’s decision to repeal religious exemptions from its mandatory vaccination laws, while still permitting medical exemptions. The court found that the act was neutral under Smith and thus dismissed plaintiffs’ challenges.
  • In Sims v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, the 11th Circuit found that in a suit where a Muslim inmate argued that he was denied an exemption from a Florida prison’s grooming rules requiring beards be no longer than half an inch, the Prison Litigation Reform Act’s requirement that inmates exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit only required him to exhaust the prison system’s grievance process. The Department of Corrections argued that the PLRA required inmates to file a rule change petition before filing suit.
  • In Huntsman v. Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the 9th Circuit reversed dismissal of a suit brought by a former member of the LDS Church who alleged fraud on part of the church after he contributed $2.6 million in tithes to the church. The court rejected the Church’s argument that the suit was precluded by the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine.
  • In Carter v. Transport Workers of America, Local 556, the Northern District of Texas ordered sanctions against Southwest Airlines for failing to comply with a prior order that found Southwest violated Title VII by terminating a flight attendant for posting her religiously-motivated views of abortion on her social media. The court also ordered Southwest’s attorneys to attend at least 8 hours of religious liberty training.
  • In Burke v. Walsh, a Catholic couple filed suit against a foster care agency in the District of Massachusetts. The couple brought free speech and free exercise challenges because the agency denied them a foster care license because they “would not be affirming to a child who identified as LGBTQIA.”
  •  In Doe No. 1 v. Bethel Local School District Board of Education, the Southern District of Ohio dismissed a suit brought by Muslim and Christian plaintiffs alleging free exercise, due process, and equal protection challenges to a school board’s policy allowing students to use the bathroom of their gender identity.

Justice after War

I’m no expert, but it seems to me that most discussion of Just War Theory has to do with the reasons for starting a war and how one should prosecute a war once it has begun. A new book from Catholic University Press focuses on a different problem: how the victor should behave when a war is over. Looks very interesting. The book is Justice after War: Jus Post Bellum in the 21st Century. The author is theologian David Chiwon Kwon (Seattle University). Here’s the publisher’s description:

Justice After War is aimed especially to both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the general audience who want to understand the significance of a recent development within the just war tradition, namely, the increasing attention given to the category of jus post bellum (postwar justice and peace). While examining the interrelated challenges of moral and social norms in both political and legal domains, as well as church practices, this work proposes an innovative methodology for linking theology, ethics, and social science so that the ideal and the real can inform each other in the ethics of war and peacebuilding. The main task of this project, then, is to identify what the author views as three key themes of jus post bellum, and three practices that are essential to implementing jus post bellum immediately after a war: just policing, just punishment, and just political participation.

David Kwon endeavors to challenge the view of those who suggest that reconciliation, mainly political reconciliation, is the foremost ambition of jus post bellum. Instead, he attempts to justify the proposition that achieving just policing, just punishment, and just political participation are essential to building a just peace, a peace in which the fundamental characteristic must be human security. It thus demonstrates that human security is an oft-neglected theme in the recent discourse of moral theologians and that a more balanced understanding of jus post bellum will direct attention to the elements composing human security in a postwar context.