International Law and Religion: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Koskenniemi et al., eds.)

One of our Center’s areas of focus, and an area of expertise developed by my colleagueInternational Law Mark, is law and religion from a comparative and international perspective. Here’s a new collected volume co-edited by the renowned scholar of international law, Martin Koskenniemi, on the subject. The publisher is OUP and the description is below.

This books maps out the territory of international law and religion challenging received traditions in fundamental aspects. On the one hand, the connection of international law and religion has been little explored. On the other, most of current research on international legal thought presents international law as the very victory of secularization. By questioning that narrative of secularization this book approaches these traditions from a new perspective.

From the Middle Ages’ early conceptualizations of rights and law to contemporary political theory, the chapters bring to life debates concerning the interaction of the meaning of the legal and the sacred. The contributors approach their chapters from an array of different backgrounds and perspectives but with the common objective of investigating the mutually shaping relationship of religion and law. The collaborative endeavour that this volume offers makes available substantial knowledge on the question of international law and religion.

Christianity and Family Law: An Introduction (Witte & Hauk, eds.)

From the indefatigable John Witte of Emory University School of Law comes this new, co-edited volume concerning Christianity and family law, a subject of continuing Wittecomplexity and relevance in constitutional law and elsewhere. The volume is organized as a series of reflections about the writings of specific Christian thinkers on the family–from Moses all the way to Jean Bethke Elshtain. The publisher is CUP and the description is below.

The Western tradition has always cherished the family as an essential foundation of a just and orderly society, and thus accorded it special legal and religious protection. Christianity embraced this teaching from the start, and many of the basics of Western family law were shaped by the Christian theologies of nature, sacrament, and covenant. This volume introduces readers to the enduring and evolving Christian norms and teachings on betrothals and weddings; marriage and divorce; women’s and children’s rights; marital property and inheritance; and human sexuality and intimate relationships. The chapters are authoritatively written but accessible to college and graduate students and scholars, as well as clergy and laity. While alert to the hot button issues of sexual liberty today, the contributing authors let the historical figures speak for themselves about what Christianity has and can contribute to the protection and guidance of our most intimate association.

Duquesne Law School Symposium on Truth, Law, and Public Discourse

Here is a conference that may be of interest to some readers:

Duquesne University School of Law is hosting a Symposium prompted by the current state of American public life entitled, “Shall These Bones Live?: Resurrecting Truth in American Law and Public Discourse” on November 16-17, 2017. The Symposium co-convenors are Bruce Ledewitz, Duquesne Law School, and Heidi Li Feldman, Georgetown University Law Center. The Symposium keynote will be given by Louise Antony, professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Other speakers are Justin Dyer, director of the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri, Lawrence M. Solan, Brooklyn Law School, Alina Ng, Mississippi College School of Law, and Brad Wendel, Cornell Law School. A short description follows.

From fake news to alternative facts, the American people have lost faith that institutions and leaders tell the truth and have even lost faith in what truth is.  Inconsistent narratives circulate among opposing groups that have little to do with each other, leading to mutual incomprehension, condescension and, sometimes, hatred.  This Symposium will consider the idea of truth, within law and without, and the depth of the current crisis of truth in American public life. The speakers will consider how realism can be reintroduced into law practice, law school teaching and political debate.

The Symposium is available for three CLE ethics credits for those attending and will be livestreamed. Papers will be published in the Duquesne Law Review. More information is available at www.duq.edu/law/resurrectingtruthcle.

Marshall, “1517: Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation”

The year 2017 is, as we have noted here before, the quincentennial of the famous, or 1517.jpegperhaps infamous(?), but nevertheless probably apocryphal, posting by Martin Luther of the 95 theses, the symbolic launch of the Reformation. Here is what looks like another important and interesting book on the Reformation by the award winning historian, Peter Marshall: 1517: Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation. The publisher is OUP and the description is below.

Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517 is one of the most famous events of Western history. It inaugurated the Protestant Reformation, and has for centuries been a powerful and enduring symbol of religious freedom of conscience, and of righteous protest against the abuse of power.

But did it actually really happen?

In this engagingly-written, wide-ranging and insightful work of cultural history, leading Reformation historian Peter Marshall reviews the available evidence, and concludes that, very probably, it did not. The theses-posting is a myth. And yet, Marshall argues, this fact makes the incident all the more historically significant. In tracing how–and why–a “non-event” ended up becoming a defining episode of the modern historical imagination. Marshall compellingly explores the multiple ways in which the figure of Martin Luther, and the nature of the Reformation itself, have been remembered and used for their own purposes by subsequent generations of Protestants and others–in Germany, Britain, the United States and elsewhere.

As people in Europe, and across the world, prepare to remember, and celebrate, the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the theses, this book offers a timely contribution and corrective. The intention is not to “debunk”, or to belittle Luther’s achievement, but rather to invite renewed reflection on how the past speaks to the present–and on how, all too often, the present creates the past in its own image and likeness.

Zelinsky, “Taxing the Church”

From Edward Zelinsky of Cardozo Law School comes this timely and important book Zelinsky.jpegabout the relationship of religion and taxation in American law, Taxing the Church: Religion, Exemptions, Entanglement, and the Constitution. I was very pleased to read the entire manuscript in draft and to provide a blurb for the jacket: “With great erudition and careful attention to the many complexities of our system of taxation and tax exemption for religious institutions, Professor Zelinsky makes a contextually sensitive case for taxation in certain contexts and not others. His discussion of ‘enforcement entanglement’ and ‘borderline entanglement’ is particularly rich and illuminating.” The publisher is Oxford University Press and here is the description.

This book explores the taxation and exemption of churches and other religious institutions, both empirically and normatively. This exploration reveals that churches and other religious institutions are treated diversely by the federal and state tax systems. Sectarian institutions pay more tax than many believe. In important respects, the states differ among themselves in their respective approaches to the taxation of sectarian entities. Either taxing or exempting churches and other sectarian entities entangles church and state. The taxes to which churches are more frequently subject – federal Social Security and Medicare taxes, sales taxes, real estate conveyance taxes – fall on the less entangling end of the spectrum. The taxes from which religious institutions are exempt – general income taxes, value-based property taxes, unemployment taxes – are typically taxes with the greatest potential for church-state enforcement entanglement. It is unpersuasive to reflexively denounce the tax exemption of religious actors and institutions as a subsidy. Tax exemption can implement the secular, non-subsidizing goal of minimizing church-state enforcement entanglement and thus be regarded as part of a normative tax base.

Taxing the church or exempting the church involves often difficult trade-offs among competing and legitimate values. On balance, our federal system of decentralized legislation reasonably make these legal and tax policy trade-offs, though there is room for improvement in particular settings such as the protection of internal church communications and the expansion of the churches’ sales tax liabilities.

Laborde, “Liberalism’s Religion”

This seems to be a book not about liberalism as a kind of religion (or as valuing a Laborde.jpgparticular kind of religion), but instead about what liberalism–particularly the secular liberalism of the kind championed by the author–ought to do with religion in today’s day and age. A book very much in line with recent efforts to destabilize the category of religion as meriting special legal (and constitutional) protection, which in turn requires severing the reasons for its protection from their historical roots. Indeed, ultimately, I wonder whether the book actually is about the distinctive sort of religion acceptable to liberalism, or perhaps even about liberalism as itself espousing a variety of religion. The author is Cécile Laborde, the publisher is Harvard UP, and here is the description.

Liberal societies conventionally treat religion as unique under the law, requiring both special protection (as in guarantees of free worship) and special containment (to keep religion and the state separate). But recently this idea that religion requires a legal exception has come under fire from those who argue that religion is no different from any other conception of the good, and the state should treat all such conceptions according to principles of neutrality and equal liberty. Cécile Laborde agrees with much of this liberal egalitarian critique, but she argues that a simple analogy between the good and religion misrepresents the complex relationships among religion, law, and the state. Religion serves as more than a statement of belief about what is true, or a code of moral and ethical conduct. It also refers to comprehensive ways of life, political theories of justice, modes of voluntary association, and vulnerable collective identities.

Disaggregating religion into its various dimensions, as Laborde does, has two clear advantages. First, it shows greater respect for ethical and social pluralism by ensuring that whatever treatment religion receives from the law, it receives because of features that it shares with nonreligious beliefs, conceptions, and identities. Second, it dispenses with the Western, Christian-inflected conception of religion that liberal political theory relies on, especially in dealing with the issue of separation between religion and state. As a result, Liberalism’s Religion offers a novel answer to the question: Can Western theories of secularism and religion be applied more universally in non-Western societies?

Benne, “Keeping the Soul in Christian Higher Education”

Here is another entry in new books about Christianity and the American university, but Roanoke.jpegthis time with a historical (as well as Lutheran) orientation: Keeping the Soul in Christian Higher Education: A History of Roanoke College, by Robert Benne of the College’s Religion and Philosophy department. The publisher is Eerdmans and the description is here.

Many colleges with historical church ties experience significant tension between the desire to compete in the secularized world of higher education and the desire to remain connected to their religious commitments and communities. In this history of one such school, Roanoke College, Robert Benne not only explores the school’s 175-year tradition of educational excellence but also lays bare its complicated and ongoing relationship with its religious heritage.

Benne examines the vision of ten of Roanoke’s presidents and how those visions played out in college life. As he tells the college’s story, Benne points to specific strengths and weaknesses of Roanoke’s strategies for keeping the soul in higher education and elaborates what other Christian colleges can learn from Roanoke’s long quest.

Roche, “Realizing the Distinctive University”

As the new academic year begins, I am reminded of something from Pope John Paul II’s Universityimportant and learned Apostolic Letter, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, concerning the nature of Catholic universities: “Without in any way neglecting the acquisition of useful knowledge, a Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God.” I am therefore looking forward to reading this new book by Mark William Roche (a scholar of German literature who has taught at both the Ohio State University and the University of Notre Dame) on the nature, function, and future of the university. The publisher is Notre Dame Press and the description is below.

In Realizing the Distinctive University: Vision and Values, Strategy and Culture, Mark Roche changes the terms of the debate about American higher education. A former dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame, Roche argues for the importance of an institutional vision, not simply a brand, and while he extols the value of entrepreneurship, he defines it in contrast to the corporate drive toward commercialization and demands for business management models. Using the history of the German university to assess the need for, and implementation of, distinctive visions at American colleges and universities, Roche’s own vision benefits from his deep connection to both systems as well as his experience in the trenches working to realize the special mission of an American Catholic university. Roche makes a significant contribution by delineating means for moving such an institution from vision to implementation.

Roche provides a road map to creating a superb arts and sciences college within a major research university and offers a rich analysis of five principles that have shaped the modern American university: flexibility, competition, incentives, accountability, and community. He notes the challenges and problems that surface with these categories and includes ample illustration of both best practices and personal missteps. The book makes clear that even a compelling intellectual vision must always be linked to its embodiment in rhetoric, support structures, and community. Throughout this unique and appealing contribution to the literature on higher education, Roche avoids polemic and remains optimistic about the ways in which a faculty member serving in administration can make a positive difference.

Nuovo, “John Locke: The Philosopher as Christian Virtuoso”

There are few more influential philosophers than John Locke on the American founding,Locke and in particular on the distinctively American understanding of the separation of religion and government. And yet in many of Locke’s writings on religion and toleration (as well as elsewhere, as in his discussion of Christianity itself), it is clear that Locke presupposes a Christian commonwealth. Here is a new and interesting volume that is an effort in reconciliation, by Victor Nuovo and published by Oxford University Press. Here is the publisher’s description.

Early modern Europe was the birthplace of the modern secular outlook. During the seventeenth century nature and human society came to be regarded in purely naturalistic, empirical ways, and religion was made an object of critical historical study. John Locke was a central figure in all these events. This study of his philosophical thought shows that these changes did not happen smoothly or without many conflicts of belief: Locke, in the role of Christian Virtuoso, endeavoured to resolve them. He was an experimental natural philosopher, a proponent of the so-called ‘new philosophy’, a variety of atomism that emerged in early modern Europe. But he was also a practising Christian, and he professed confidence that the two vocations were not only compatible, but mutually sustaining. He aspired, without compromising his empirical stance, to unite the two vocations in a single philosophical endeavour with the aim of producing a system of Christian philosophy.

Forrestal, “Vincent de Paul, the Lazarist Mission, and French Catholic Reform”

A point of personal privilege in this listing: St. John’s University is a “Vincentian” SVDPuniversity, which means that it shares and extends the mission of the seventeenth century French priest St. Vincent De Paul. Here is a new book that explores his life, times, and legacy by Alison Forrestal. The publisher is Oxford University Press and here is the description.

Vincent de Paul, the Lazarist Mission, and French Catholic Reform offers a major re-assessment of the thought and activities of the most famous figure of the seventeenth-century French Catholic Reformation, Vincent de Paul. Confronting traditional explanations for de Paul’s prominence in the devot reform movement that emerged in the wake of the Wars of Religion, the volume explores how he turned a personal vocational desire to evangelize the rural poor of France into a congregation of secular missionaries, known as the Congregation of the Mission or the Lazarists, with three inter-related strands of pastoral responsibility: the delivery of missions, the formation and training of clergy, and the promotion of confraternal welfare.

Alison Forrestal further demonstrates that the structure, ethos, and works that de Paul devised for the Congregation placed it at the heart of a significant enterprise of reform that involved a broad set of associates in efforts to transform the character of devotional belief and practice within the church. The central questions of the volume therefore concern de Paul’s efforts to create, characterize, and articulate a distinctive and influential vision for missionary life and work, both for himself and for the Lazarist Congregation, and Forrestal argues that his prominence and achievements depended on his remarkable ability to exploit the potential for association and collaboration within the devot environment of seventeenth-century France in enterprising and systematic ways.

This is the first study to assess de Paul’s activities against the wider backdrop of religious reform and Bourbon rule, and to reconstruct the combination of ideas, practices, resources, and relationships that determined his ability to pursue his ambitions. A work of forensic detail and complex narrative, Vincent de Paul, the Lazarist Mission, and French Catholic Reform is the product of years of research in ecclesiastical and state archives. It offers a wholly fresh perspective on the challenges and opportunities entailed in the promotion of religious reform and renewal in seventeenth-century France.

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