Eekelaar, “Family Rights and Religion”

In May, Routledge will release “Family Rights and Religion,” by John Eekelaar (Pembroke College, Oxford University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The interaction between individual rights, which are often seen in secular terms, and religion is becoming an important and complex topic not only for academic study logo-rt-cbut for practical policy. This volume collects a range of writings from journals, edited collections and individual books which deal with different aspects of the interaction within the context of family life, and which appear with their original pagination. These studies have been selected because they throw a sharp light on central elements of the role of religion in determining the structure of the rights of family members in relation to one another, both from an historical and contemporary perspective. While many of the writings are focused on US and European systems, selected writings covering other systems illustrate the universal nature of the topic. The studies are accompanied by a reflective commentary from the editor which sets the writings in a broad context of social, constitutional and philosophical thought, with the aim of stimulating critical thought and discussion.

Decentering Discussions on Religion and State (Donabed & Quezada-Grant, eds.)

This April, Lexington Books will release “Decentering Discussions on Religion and State: Emerging Narratives, Challenging Perspectives” edited by Sargon George Donabed and Autumn Quezada-Grant (Roger Williams University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Decentering ReligionThis volume explores dynamic conversations through history between individuals and communities over questions about religion and state. Divided into two sections, our authors begin with considerations on the separation of religion and state, as well as Roger Williams’ concept of religious freedom. Authors in the first half consider nuanced debates centered on emerging narratives, with particular emphasis on Native America, Early Americans, and experiences in American immigration after Independence. The first half of the volume examines voices in American History as they publicly engage with notions of secular ideology. Discussions then shift as the volume broadens to world perspectives on religion-state relations. Authors consider critical questions of nation, religious identity and transnational narratives. The intent of this volume is to privilege new narratives about religion-state relations. Decentering discussions away from national narratives allows for emerging voices at the individual and community levels. This volume offers readers new openings through which to understand critical but overlooked interactions between individuals and groups of people with the state over questions about religion.

Carpenter on Individual Religious Freedoms in American Indian Tribal Constitutional Law

Kristen A. Carpenter (U. of Colorado Law School) has posted Individual Religious Freedoms in American Indian Tribal Constitutional Law. The abstract follows.

Written on the 40th Anniversary of the Indian Civil Rights Act, this article engages with a prominent critique of individual rights in tribal communities, namely that they effectuate the ‘assimilation’ of tribal people, values, and institutions. On the one hand, because American Indian religions emphasize collective values and experiences, this critique is particularly apt in the religion context, and the imposition of individual rights norms recalls the federal government’s historic efforts to destroy tribes by eradicating tribal religious practices. Moreover, in many tribal communities, religion is conceptualized and practiced not in terms of ‘rights’ but rather ‘duties’ to other people, plants, animals, natural features, and the ceremonies themselves. On the other hand, some Indian tribes have historically recognized personal liberties in spiritual practices, and now consider it an obligation of self-government to protect individual interests in religion. This article explores these themes, particularly as they manifest in tribal constitutional law, which reveals a broad spectrum of rights and duties, individual and collective protections. The article also elaborates on several ways that tribes recognize individual rights in the context of tribal culture, namely using tribal custom as a basis for interpreting positive law on individual religious rights, maintaining separate institutions for the resolution of legal disputes about religion, and engaging in constitutional reform to change religious rights provisions that are inconsistent with tribal values. In the final analysis, the article observes that that while many challenges remain, tribal governments often try to facilitate individual and collective interests in religious freedom today.


Religious Law and the Financial Crisis

In this recent interview in L’Express (in French), Gilles Bernheim, the Chief Rabbi of France, makes some points about the relationship between religious law, specifically Talmudic Law, and contemporary economics. Although the Talmud could not imagine today’s financial arrangements, he concedes, it did teach, in the language of its time, that individualism was the worst enemy of communal confidence. According to the Talmudic view, we should place confidence in work, solidarity, and justice, not the “audacity” of rugged individualism “that dares all without concern for others.” The Talmudic worldview, one infers, would help avert crises like the one we’re currently experiencing.

Rabbi Bernheim’s critique of market economics from a religious perspective is quite familiar; it is very similar, for example, to the critique in Catholic Social Thought (another reminder that one should not reflexively link religion with the political right). And the financial crisis we’re living through does reflect reckless behavior by people who should have known better. A sense of responsibility to the community, which a religious worldview might have imparted, might have helped to avert the crisis.

That said, we should avoid being simplistic about things. Of course individualism “that dares all without concern for others” is incompatible with a religious worldview, but egotism like that is inconsistent with sane market economics as well. And in the United States, at least, the housing bubble that led to the Panic of 2008 was caused in part by government programs that encouraged people to purchase homes they could not afford. In other words, the crisis was not caused only by rugged individualism and greed; it was also caused by a misguided egalitarian project that had terrible consequences for everyone, including its supposed beneficiaries. Anyway, the relationship among selfishness, communal solidarity, and financial collapse is a complicated one that the Chief Rabbi more or less slides by. Though perhaps one shouldn’t expect too much from a newspaper interview – or a blog post. – MLM

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