Happy Labor Day

ora

Hope everyone’s enjoying the day off.

Happy Independence Day

john-adams-large

In honor of the Fourth of July, the Forum is taking off today. Happy Independence Day and see you tomorrow!

Silinsky, “Jihad and the West”

New from Indiana University Press, Jihad and the West: Black Flag over Babylon, by Mark Silinsky (US Department of Defense). The publisher’s description follows:

9780253027016_medU.S. Department of Defense analyst Mark Silinsky reveals the origins of the Islamic State’s sinister obsession with the Western world. Once considered a minor irritant in the international system, the Caliphate is now a dynamic and significant actor on the world’s stage, boasting more than 30,000 foreign fighters from 86 countries. Recruits consist not only of Middle-Eastern-born citizens, but also a staggering number of “Blue-Eyed Jihadists,” Westerners who leave their country to join the radical sect. Silinsky provides a detailed and chilling explanation of the appeal of the Islamic State and how those abroad become radicalized, while also analyzing the historical origins, inner workings, and horrific toll of the Caliphate. By documenting the true stories of men, women, and children whose lives have been destroyed by the radical group, Jihad and the West presents the human face of the thousands who have been kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered by the Islamic State, including Kayla Mueller, who was kidnapped, given to the Caliphate’s leader as a sex slave, and ultimately killed.

Winterer, “American Enlightenments”

From Yale University Press, a new intellectual history of America after the Revolution, American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason, by Caroline Winterer (Stanford). The publisher’s description follows:

d55b12cf44c33ef5c1c02428f6c1dd26A provocative reassessment of the concept of an American golden age of European-born reason and intellectual curiosity in the years following the Revolutionary War:

The accepted myth of the “American Enlightenment” suggests that the rejection of monarchy and establishment of a new republic in the United States in the eighteenth century was the realization of utopian philosophies born in the intellectual salons of Europe and radiating outward to the New World. In this revelatory work, Stanford historian Caroline Winterer argues that a national mythology of a unitary, patriotic era of enlightenment in America was created during the Cold War to act as a shield against the threat of totalitarianism, and that Americans followed many paths toward political, religious, scientific, and artistic enlightenment in the 1700s that were influenced by European models in more complex ways than commonly thought. Winterer’s book strips away our modern inventions of the American national past, exploring which of our ideas and ideals are truly rooted in the eighteenth century and which are inventions and mystifications of more recent times.

“Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine” (Demacopoulos & Papanikolaou, eds.)

From Fordham University Press, a new collection on Orthodox perspectives on the relationship between Christianity and liberal democracy: Christianity, Democracy, and the Shadow of Constantine, edited by Fordham professors George Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou. The publisher’s description follows:

9780823274208_10The collapse of communism in eastern Europe has forced traditionally Eastern Orthodox countries to consider the relationship between Christianity and liberal democracy. Contributors examine the influence of Constantinianism in both the post-communist Orthodox world and in Western political theology. Constructive theological essays feature Catholic and Protestant theologians reflecting on the relationship between Christianity and democracy, as well as Orthodox theologians reflecting on their tradition’s relationship to liberal democracy. The essays explore prospects of a distinctively Christian politics in a post-communist, post-Constantinian age.

Oakes, “Conservative Revolutionaries”

New from Wipf and Stock Publishers: Conservative Revolutionaries: Transformation and Tradition in the Religious and Political Thought of Charles Chauncy and Jonathan Mayhew, by John Oakes (Simon Fraser University). The publisher’s description follows:

PICKWICK_TemplateBoston Congregationalist ministers Charles Chauncy (1705-87) and Jonathan Mayhew (1720-66) were significant political as well as religious leaders in colonial and revolutionary New England. Scholars have often stressed their influence on major shifts in New England theology, from traditional Calvinism to Arminianism and, ultimately, to universalism and Unitarianism. They have also portrayed Mayhew as an influential preacher, whose works helped shape American revolutionary ideology, and Chauncy as an active leader of the patriot cause.

Through a deeply contextualized re-examination of the two ministers as “men of their times,” John S. Oakes offers a fresh, comparative interpretation of how their religious and political views changed and interacted over decades. The result is a thoroughly revised reading of Chauncy’s and Mayhew’s most innovative ideas. Conservative Revolutionaries also unearths strongly traditionalist elements in their belief systems, centering on their shared commitment to a dissenting worldview based on the ideals of their Protestant New England and British heritage.

Oakes concludes with a provocative exploration of how the shifting theological and political positions of these two “conservative revolutionaries” may have helped redefine prevailing notions of human identity, capability, and destiny.

 

Bergen, “United States of Jihad”

Forthcoming from Penguin Random House, a new book by Peter Bergen, United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists. The publisher’s description follows:

Medved, “The American Miracle”

New from Penguin Random House: Michael Medved’s The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic. The publisher’s description follows:

9780553447262The history of the United States displays an uncanny pattern: At moments of crisis, when the odds against success seem overwhelming and disaster looks imminent, fate intervenes to provide deliverance and progress. Historians may categorize these incidents as happy accidents, callous crimes, or the product of brilliant leadership, but the most notable leaders of the past four hundred years have identified this good fortune as something else—a reflection of divine providence. In The American Miracle, bestselling author and radio host Michael Medved recounts some of the most significant events in America’s rise to prosperity and power, from the writing of the Constitution to the Civil War. He reveals a record of improbabilities and amazements that demonstrate what the Founders always believed: that events unfolded according to a master plan, with destiny playing an unmistakable role in lifting the nation to greatness.

Berg: Free Exercise Exemptions and the Original Understanding

This autumn, we have been hosting an online symposium on Vincent Phillip Muñoz‘s new article, “Two Concepts of Religious Liberty.” In today’s post, Thomas Berg (University of St. Thomas (Minnesota)) responds to Muñoz. For other posts in this series, please click here.

In his excellent journal article “Two Concepts of Religious Liberty,”[1] and in a recent LRF blog post,[2] Vincent Philip Muñoz argues that the founders’ natural-rights theory of religious freedom is very different from the modern practice of protecting religious exercise through exemption from otherwise valid, generally applicable laws. The original understanding, he says, supports the rule of Employment Division v. Smith’s rejection of mandatory exemptions under the Free Exercise, rather than Sherbert v. Verner’s rule mandating exemptions unless the government can show a “compelling interest” in burdening religious exercise. And Muñoz criticizes the arguments of Michael McConnell, who concluded that while the question was close, “[t]he historical record casts doubt on [Smith’s] interpretation of the free exercise clause.”[3]

Under current law, this historical debate is of limited importance. Although the exemptions approach has been rejected for the Free Exercise Clause, it has been adopted in some form in federal legislation[4] and in the legislation or constitutional rulings of more than 30 states. As a result, the exemptions approach applies to all federal laws, to every state’s land use and prison regulations, and, in much of the nation, to the full body of state and local laws. Muñoz says that legislatures should decide whether to exempt religion from general law; many of them have decided to do so through religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs), federal and state.

In fact, however, the exemptions approach finds considerable support in the religious-freedom tradition of the founding; it may even be the best historical reading, although that is a difficult question. Smith was not dictated by originalism; the Court should be willing to entertain modifying or overruling it; and at the very least legislatures and state courts should feel no embarrassment at adopting the exemptions approach. I will first discuss the historical issues and then turn to some of Muñoz’s other qualms about the exemptions approach.

The Original Understanding, Exemptions, and “Harms to Others”

Muñoz’s journal article focuses heavily on the natural-rights outlook of the framers, arguing that it supports a “jurisdictional” approach that simply prevents government from regulating religion as religion: that is, from targeting it with a non-neutral law. But that argument ignored the aspect of founding-era history that, for McConnell, was the Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: