A Conference on Robert George’s “Making Men Moral” at 30

I’m delighted to announce a conference on Robert George’s groundbreaking book, Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality, on the 30th anniversary of its publication. The conference will be held November 30-December 1, and is being jointly organized by AEI, the Ethics & Public Policy Center, Pepperdine University, and the Project on Constitutional Originalism and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition at Catholic University. You can see the terrific program at the link.

I’m particularly pleased to contribute something to this conference, as Robby’s book was a major influence on me as I thought about an academic career many years ago, shaping the way I thought about so-called “legal moralism” and many other questions in constitutional law and theory that came to occupy me in later years. And I continue to use the book to this day in my own classes as a model to introduce some of the foundational questions of governance that it discusses.

Law & Religion’s Next Phase

Over the summer, I worked on an article (about which more soon) called “The Death and New Life of Law and Religion.” It is in part a historiography of the field, but it also argues that many of the concerns that motivated the field to emerge in the 1970s and 1980s are now at an end, at least insofar as their scholarly interest is concerned. No doubt, scholars, judges, and others will continue to wrangle over them for a variety of reasons. But the field feels to me like it is in transition–moving from one set of questions and objects toward another, or perhaps toward others. As these changes arrive, they will radiate outward, affecting many things. Including the work of this Center.

So I was delighted to see a new book out this fall by Rafael Domingo that appears to sound some similar themes, though with perhaps a different diagnosis, focus, and endpoint. The book is Law and Religion in a Secular Age (CUA Press).

Law and Religion in a Secular Age seeks to restore the connection between spirituality and justice, religion and law, theology and jurisprudence, and natural law and positive law by building a new bridge suitable for pluralistic societies in the secular age. The author argues for a multidimensional view of reality that includes legal, political, moral, and spiritual dimensions of human nature and society. Each of these dimensions of life needs to recognize the existence, influence, and function of the others, which act as a filter or check on the excesses of each other. This multidimensionality of reality clarifies why no legal theory can fully account for law from the legal dimension alone, just as no moral theory makes perfect sense of morality from the moral dimension—and, for that matter, nothing in physics can fully interpret the physical dimension of reality. The premises of a legal system cannot be fully explained by the legal dimension alone because the fundamental conditions and qualities of justice, freedom, and dignity touch all the dimensions of reality in which the human person acts, including the moral and the spiritual, not just the legal. Building on this multidimensional theory of reality, the author explores the core differences and the essential interconnections between law, morality, religion, and spirituality and some of the legal implications of these connections.

Rafael Domingo reminds readers of the vital role of religion in shaping the conceptual framework of Western legal systems, underscores the spirit of Christianity that inspired legal institutions, principles, and values, and recalls the contributions of specific Christian jurists as central figures for the development of justice in society.

Law and Religion in a Secular Age aims to be a valuable antidote against the dominant legal positivism that has cornered public morality, the defiant secularism that has marginalized religion, and any other legal doctrine that diminishes the spiritual dimension of law and justice.

Around the Web

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

  • In Hindu American Foundation, Inc. v. Kish, a California federal district court ruled that the Hindu American Foundation lacks standing to challenge the California Civil Rights Department’s stance on caste discrimination being a part of Hindu teachings. The court found the organization’s complaint vague and insufficient in demonstrating whom it represented. The complaint broadly claimed to defend the rights of “all Hindu Americans” and “all Americans of faith.”
  • A Texas federal court imposed sanctions on Southwest Airlines for not adhering to a previous order which found the Airline guilty of violating Title VII by firing an employee who shared her religious views on social media. The court required three of the airline’s lawyers to attend religious liberty training by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal non-profit. In response to Southwest’s objection to training with an “ideological organization,” the court emphasized ADF’s track record in winning Supreme Court cases on religious liberties.
  • In Union Gospel Mission of Yakima, Wash. v. Ferguson, a Washington federal district court dismissed, on federalism grounds, the plaintiff’s challenge to the the Washington Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state’s ministerial exception doctrine. The federal court saw the plaintiff’s challenge as an indirect attempt to overturn a prior state court decision in violation of the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine.
  • In Tilsen v. Benson, the Connecticut Supreme Court declined to a ketubah, or Jewish marriage contract, in an alimony decision. The court determined that the contract was vague and that enforcing it could breach the establishment clause. The court noted that parties could craft clear agreements that respect religious beliefs without causing legal conflicts.
  • In David v. South Congregational Church, a Massachusetts court dismissed a member’s defamation lawsuit against a church and its leaders. The member was removed from church committees over alleged unethical financial conduct. The court declined to intervene in church disciplinary decisions.
  • Three musicians have filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina Symphony alleging religious discrimination following their termination for refusing the Symphony’s 2021 COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The plaintiffs claim the Symphony violated the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by mandating the vaccine despite their religious objections. The Symphony, which reversed its vaccine mandate in August but did not reinstate the musicians, denies any wrongdoing and insists its actions were in line with health guidelines and the policies of other symphonies.