Announcing the Fourth Biennial Colloquium in Law and Religion

Mark and I are pleased and honored to announce the fourth biennial (how many years is that?) Colloquium in Law and Religion, to be hosted in fall 2018. This seminar invites leading law and religion scholars to share their work before a small audience of students and faculty. Here is the slate of speakers:

September 17: Professor Robert Louis Wilken (University of Virginia, Emeritus)

October 1: Professor Philip Hamburger (Columbia Law School)

October 15: Professor John Inazu (Washington U. St. Louis School of Law)

October 29: Professor Micah Schwartzman (University of Virginia School of Law)

November 12: The Honorable Diane S. Sykes (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit)

November 26: Professor Vincent Phillip Muñoz (University of Notre Dame)

To read more about past colloquia, please see these links:

For more information about the 2018 colloquium, please contact me at degirolm@stjohns.edu or Mark at movsesim@stjohns.edu.

“Priests, Lawyers, and Scholars: Essays in Honor of Robert J. Araujo, S.J.” (Hendrianto, ed.)

I was fortunate to have known Fr. Robert Araujo in the last decade of his life before his premature passing in 2015. For a time, we were working together on a translation of the great natural law scholar Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio’s “Saggio Teoretico di Diritto Naturale” (“Theoretical Essay on Natural Law”) into English (which, regrettably, we never finished). Taparelli was one of the major intellectual influences on Pope Leo XIII. Even as late as 2015, Bob was working on a large piece on the implications of Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom for the contemporary legal landscape.

I am in consequence very happy to notice this new book, a collection of essays in Araujocelebration of Bob’s life and work: Priests, Lawyers, and Scholars: Essays in Honor of Robert J. Araujo, S.J. (CUA Press), edited by Stefanus Hendrianto, S.J.

Robert J. Araujo, SJ, is a Catholic legal scholar. For more than twenty-five years, Fr. Araujo was a legal practitioner who devoted his life to defend the Church teaching in American public life and international arena. The present volume brings together twelve essays by noted scholars in honor of Fr. Araujo. The volume displays the influence of the Catholic intellectual tradition across issues such as natural law, Catholic social teachings, constitutionalism, religious freedom and public international law―in this way, the volume highlights the interconnectedness of philosophy, theology, law, and politics in the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Dumitrascu, “Basil the Great”

A fascinating entry in the “church and state in the early Christian world” catalog, here isBasil Basil the Great: Faith, Mission and Diplomacy in the Shaping of Christian Doctrine (Routledge), by Nicu Dumitrascu. The author focuses specifically on the church-state implications of Basil of Caesarea’s life and thought in the 4th century. I know St. Basil only a little bit because of his opposition to Arianism and other heresies. But this treatment looks like a splendid source to fill up all the many holes in my knowledge about this figure and period.

Regarded as one of the three hierarchs or pillars of orthodoxy along with Gregory of Nazianzus and John Chrysostom, Basil is a key figure in the formative process of Christianity in the fourth century. While his role in establishing Trinitarian terminology, as well as his function in shaping monasticism, his social thought and even his contribution to the evolution of liturgical forms have been the focus of research for many years, there are few studies which centre on his political thought. Basil played a major role in the political and religious life between Cappadocia and Armenia and was a key figure in the tumultuous relationship between Church and State in Late Antiquity. He was a great religious leader and a gifted diplomat, and developed a ’special relationship’ with Emperor Valens and other high imperial officials.

Hazony, “The Virtue of Nationalism”

Nationalism is often in the news today and it has (again) become an object of academic Hazonystudy. Most of these treatments are highly critical of nationalism, particularly as respects contemporary political developments. But here is a very interesting looking new book by Yoram Hazony that defends nationalism–or at least certain features of it: The Virtue of Nationalism (Basic Books). Hazony discusses the importance of nationalism in the Protestant movements of the 16th century, which drew inspiration from the Old Testament to separate from the internationalist (and Catholic) Holy Roman Empire. It is nationalism, Hazony seems to argue, that guarantees certain freedoms as well as genuine pluralism. Worth checking out.

Nationalism is the issue of our age. From Donald Trump’s “America first” politics to Brexit to the rise of the right in Europe, events have forced a crucial debate: Should we fight for international government? Or should the world’s nations keep their independence and self-determination?
In The Virtue of Nationalism, Yoram Hazony contends that a world of sovereign nations is the only option for those who care about personal and collective freedom. He recounts how, beginning in the sixteenth century, English, Dutch, and American Protestants revived the Old Testament’s love of national independence, and shows how their vision eventually brought freedom to peoples from Poland to India, Israel to Ethiopia. It is this tradition we must restore, he argues, if we want to limit conflict and hate–and allow human difference and innovation to flourish.

Ruse, “Darwinism as Religion”

Here’s one that we missed when it was published in 2016, but that a colleague noticed in Darwinismreading this recent review: Darwinism as Religion: What Literature Tells Us About Evolution (OUP), by philosopher Michael Ruse. As a general matter, claims by the religious that American law incorporates a scientistic, secular religion have been rejected by the Supreme Court and have been met with skepticism. But Ruse seems to argue that we should embrace the idea that the Darwinian “revolution” was primarily spiritual and exactly a secular religion.

The Darwinian Revolution–the change in thinking sparked by Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which argued that all organisms including humans are the end product of a long, slow, natural process of evolution rather than the miraculous creation of an all-powerful God–is one of the truly momentous cultural events in Western Civilization. Darwinism as Religion is an innovative and exciting approach to this revolution through creative writing, showing how the theory of evolution as expressed by Darwin has, from the first, functioned as a secular religion.

Drawing on a deep understanding of both the science and the history, Michael Ruse surveys the naturalistic thinking about the origins of organisms, including the origins of humankind, as portrayed in novels and in poetry, taking the story from its beginnings in the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century right up to the present. He shows that, contrary to the opinion of many historians of the era, there was indeed a revolution in thought and that the English naturalist Charles Darwin was at the heart of it. However, contrary also to what many think, this revolution was not primarily scientific as such, but more religious or metaphysical, as people were taken from the secure world of the Christian faith into a darker, more hostile world of evolutionism.

In a fashion unusual for the history of ideas, Ruse turns to the novelists and poets of the period for inspiration and information. His book covers a wide range of creative writers – from novelists like Voltaire and poets like Erasmus Darwin in the eighteenth century, through the nineteenth century with novelists including Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Henry James and H. G. Wells and poets including Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and on to the twentieth century with novelists including Edith Wharton, D. H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck, William Golding, Graham Greene, Ian McEwan and Marilynne Robinson, and poets including Robert Frost, Edna St Vincent Millay and Philip Appleman. Covering such topics as God, origins, humans, race and class, morality, sexuality, and sin and redemption, and written in an engaging manner and spiced with wry humor, Darwinism as Religion gives us an entirely fresh, engaging and provocative view of one of the cultural highpoints of Western thought.

Review of Deneen, “Why Liberalism Failed”

I have a review of Patrick Deneen’s book, Why Liberalism Failed, at the Liberty Fund blog. A bit:

[L]aw is liberalism’s most potent instrument. Law plays a legitimating role in many political regimes, but it performs unique work in Deneen’s account of the liberal state.

Legal liberalism is the device that replaces non-liberal social structures and institutions—the very structures and institutions that once sustained it—and establishes itself as the exclusive fount of authority. Legal liberalism substitutes informal relationships derived from non-liberal institutions with administrative directives and centralized controls, whether of the surveillance state, the Title IX bureaucrat, or the carceral network. Legal liberalism elevates the Constitution to the status of sacral cultural object, in the process consecrating the legal state: new citizens and officeholders swear an oath not to the nation, but to the Constitution and the law. Legal liberalism trumpets the ceaseless progression of individual freedoms and rights, even as its laws generate and consolidate greater power, wealth, and control in the state. Legal liberalism’s contemporary master right, as announced by its oracles—to “define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”—requires a correspondingly enormous and engulfing positive law and regulatory armamentarium. Legal liberalism is predisposed toward cosmopolitanism, globalism, and internationalism, and against local custom, culture, and tradition. And it seems to me that Deneen would take legal liberalism’s educational hubs—the elite American law schools—as archetypes of the sorts of pathologies afflicting institutions of higher learning.

Indeed, one might well suppose that the partisans of legal liberalism would be the least receptive to what Deneen has to say, devoted as they are to maintaining and enlarging the power structures and ideological commitments of the liberal status quo. Lawyers and legal academics will be particularly prone to dismiss Deneen. The legal elite is adept at inventing stratagems of self-validation. It is quick to enforce internal codes of civility, conformity, right thinking, and right speaking that mark membership in the club. It drives itself to distraction in the latest Supreme Court intrigues, investing its preferred justices with a superhuman heroism and a cult of personality (while demonizing the others). It jealously guards its own birthright. It will not like this book.

Yet even those within the legal liberal establishment who are inclined to hear him out might doubt that Deneen has shown that legal liberalism has “failed,” or that its weaknesses are so pervasive as to suggest imminent regime collapse. In the first place, legal liberalism, and the society that it has supported and been supported by, have generated vast economic wealth. To be sure, the allocation of that wealth has been, to put it gently, uneven. But its resources are nevertheless formidable. Second, legal liberalism has made several great social and political advances possible. It has helped to ameliorate, if not correct, certain profound injustices affecting various marginalized groups and it has expanded social and economic opportunity. These are genuine contributions. Deneen rapidly acknowledges this point early on, but the balance of the book does not demonstrate that the political and legal framework of liberalism either is an abject failure or has reached the point of breakdown.

What Deneen has shown, and to great effect, are a series of dynamics internal to the claims, logic, and aspirations of liberalism that produce extremely serious problems. Yet of all the variations of liberalism discussed in the book, legal liberalism is perhaps least likely to adapt to overcome these difficulties because of its deep investments in maintaining its own position. Deneen might welcome this resistance as the beginning of the end, since it would confirm a piece of the book’s thesis. But if the end is coming, legal liberalism’s tail is likely to be a long one.

Sloane, “Is the Cemetery Dead?”

The cemetery is the traditional place for the remembrance of the dead. So many of the features of cemeteries–tied as they are to place, to land, to family (think of the family plot, for example), and to community (the grave of a soul among a sea of others) connect the bereaved to one another and mark out a kind of permanence of memory. And, of course, cemeteries often adjoin religious institutions. They are the resting place of the bodies of deceased believers, located next to and in communion with the bodies of the living. Christians believe that the bodies of dead will be resurrected, and other religious groups have their own beliefs about the dead.

But the cemetery may be dying. So suggests a new book, Is the Cemetery Dead? (Chicago CemeteryPress) by David Charles Sloane. I could not help but thinking that the sort of mind-body disjunction advocated by Hobbes and other prominent liberal thinkers has some relevance here: when the essence of a person is gone–their mind–what difference does it make what we do with the rest of them? And after all, what are all of these old fussy traditions about, anyway? At any rate, here is the description:

In modern society, we have professionalized our care for the dying and deceased in hospitals and hospices, churches and funeral homes, cemeteries and mausoleums to aid dazed and disoriented mourners. But these formal institutions can be alienating and cold, leaving people craving a more humane mourning and burial process. The burial treatment itself has come to be seen as wasteful and harmful—marked by chemicals, plush caskets, and manicured greens. Today’s bereaved are therefore increasingly turning away from the old ways of death and searching for a more personalized, environmentally responsible, and ethical means of grief.

Is the Cemetery Dead? gets to the heart of the tragedy of death, chronicling how Americans are inventing new or adapting old traditions, burial places, and memorials. In illustrative prose, David Charles Sloane shows how people are taking control of their grief by bringing their relatives home to die, interning them in natural burial grounds, mourning them online, or memorializing them streetside with a shrine, ghost bike, or RIP mural. Today’s mourners are increasingly breaking free of conventions to better embrace the person they want to remember. As Sloane shows, these changes threaten the future of the cemetery, causing cemeteries to seek to become more responsive institutions.

A trained historian, Sloane is also descendent from multiple generations of cemetery managers and he grew up in Syracuse’s Oakwood Cemetery. Enriched by these experiences, as well as his personal struggles with overwhelming grief, Sloane presents a remarkable and accessible tour of our new American way of death.

Dilbeck, “Frederick Douglass: America’s Prophet”

Here is an interesting looking new book about the renowned nineteenth century Douglassabolitionist and orator, Frederick Douglass: Frederick Douglass: America’s Prophet (North Carolina Press), by D.H. Dilbeck. Douglass was both a believing Christian and a powerful critic of the hypocrisy of early American Christians who defended slavery. This book looks to be a comprehensive treatment of his prophetic witness.

From his enslavement to freedom, Frederick Douglass was one of America’s most extraordinary champions of liberty and equality. Throughout his long life, Douglass was also a man of profound religious conviction. In this concise and original biography, D. H. Dilbeck offers a provocative interpretation of Douglass’s life through the lens of his faith. In an era when the role of religion in public life is as contentious as ever, Dilbeck provides essential new perspective on Douglass’s place in American history.

Douglass came to faith as a teenager among African American Methodists in Baltimore. For the rest of his life, he adhered to a distinctly prophetic Christianity. Imitating the ancient Hebrew prophets and Jesus Christ, Douglass boldly condemned evil and oppression, especially when committed by the powerful. Dilbeck shows how Douglass’s prophetic Christianity provided purpose and unity to his wide-ranging work as an author, editor, orator, and reformer. As “America’s Prophet,” Douglass exposed his nation’s moral failures and hypocrisies in the hopes of creating a more just society. He admonished his fellow Americans to truly abide by the political and religious ideals they professed to hold most dear. Two hundred years after his birth, Douglass’s prophetic voice remains as timely as ever.

Grasso, “Skepticism and American Faith: From the Revolution to the Civil War”

The two most prevalent ways of understanding the early American experience Skepticismconcerning religion might be styled as providential Christianity and Enlightenment secularism. But this new book by Christopher Grasso, Skepticism and American Faith: From the Revolution to the Civil War (OUP), seems to describe a third possibility: doubt. It’s not crystal clear to me from the description below how the author distinguishes agnosticism from Enlightenment/secular skepticism. Guess I’ll have to read the book!

Between the American Revolution and the Civil War, the dialogue of religious skepticism and faith shaped struggles over the place of religion in politics. It produced different visions of knowledge and education in an “enlightened” society. It fueled social reform in an era of economic transformation, territorial expansion, and social change. Ultimately, as Christopher Grasso argues in this definitive work, it molded the making and eventual unmaking of American nationalism.

Religious skepticism has been rendered nearly invisible in American religious history, which often stresses the evangelicalism of the era or the “secularization” said to be happening behind people’s backs, or assumes that skepticism was for intellectuals and ordinary people who stayed away from church were merely indifferent. Certainly the efforts of vocal “infidels” or “freethinkers” were dwarfed by the legions conducting religious revivals, creating missions and moral reform societies, distributing Bibles and Christian tracts, and building churches across the land. Even if few Americans publicly challenged Christian truth claims, many more quietly doubted, and religious skepticism touched–and in some cases transformed–many individual lives. Commentators considered religious doubt to be a persistent problem, because they believed that skeptical challenges to the grounds of faith–the Bible, the church, and personal experience–threatened the foundations of American society.

Skepticism and American Faith examines the ways that Americans–ministers, merchants, and mystics; physicians, schoolteachers, and feminists; self-help writers, slaveholders, shoemakers, and soldiers–wrestled with faith and doubt as they lived their daily lives and tried to make sense of their world.

Moon, “Putting Faith in Hate”

I recently had occasion to speak to some 7th and 8th graders about some of theHate speech constitutional rules concerning the freedom of speech. One thing that struck me in talking to them is the comparative receptivity of this group to “hate speech” restrictions. Unlike many other countries, the United States has, thus far, resisted regulating such speech because of its assertedly “hateful” or “harmful” qualities. Here’s an interesting looking new study of the relationship of hate speech and religion, an area that is receiving new scholarly interest in light of increasing calls for government speech restrictions that are deemed “hateful”–Putting Faith in Hate: When Religion is the Source or Target of Hate Speech (CUP) by Richard Moon.

To allow or restrict hate speech is a hotly debated issue in many societies. While the right to freedom of speech is fundamental to liberal democracies, most countries have accepted that hate speech causes significant harm and ought to be regulated. Richard Moon examines the application of hate speech laws when religion is either the source or target of such speech. Moon describes the various legal restrictions on hate speech, religious insult, and blasphemy in Canada, Europe and elsewhere, and uses cases from different jurisdictions to illustrate the particular challenges raised by religious hate speech. The issues addressed are highly topical: speech that attacks religious communities, specifically anti-Muslim rhetoric, and hateful speech that is based on religious doctrine or scripture, such as anti-gay speech. The book draws on a rich understanding of freedom of expression, the harms of hate speech, and the role of religion in public life.

%d bloggers like this: