Around the Web

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

10 Commandments Judge to Return to Alabama Supreme Court

The Mojave Desert cross is not the only Establishment Clause icon to make a comeback this week. Roy Moore, the former Chief Judge of the Alabama Supreme Court, who famously defied a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse, has won election to his old job. In 2003, a state judicial ethics panel removed Moore from office for failing to comply with the federal court order. This week, the voters of Alabama sent Moore back to his former position. Moore told his supporters that he would continue “to stand for the acknowledgment of God,” but has promised not to try to restore the monument.

Hogue, “Stumping God”

In August, Baylor University Press published Stumping God: Reagan, Carter, and the Invention of a Political Faith by Andrew P. Hogue (Baylor University). The publisher’s description follows.

For more than three decades, American presidential candidates have desperately sought the conservative Evangelical vote. With an ever broadening base of support, the Evangelical movement in America may now seem to many a very powerful lobbyist on Capitol Hill. As Andrew Hogue shows, however, this was not always the case.

In Stumping God Hogue deconstructs the 1980 presidential election, in which Ronald Reagan would defeat Jimmy Carter and John B. Anderson, and uncovers a disproportionately heavy reliance on religious rhetoric—a rhetoric that would be the catalyst for a new era of presidential politics. Until 1980, the idea that conservative politics was somehow connected with conservative theology was distant from the American imagination. Hogue describes the varying streams of influence that finally converged by the Reagan-Carter election, including the rapidly rising Religious Right. By 1980, candidates were not only challenged to appeal rhetorically to a conservative religious base, but found it necessary to make public their once-private religious commitments.

In compelling and illuminating fashion, Stumping God explains the roots of modern religious politics and encourages readers to move beyond the haze of rhetorical appeals that—for better or worse—continually clouds the political process.

Religion and the Wisconsin Recall

Here’s a very interesting analysis, written just before the results, of the religious cross-currents in yesterday’s Wisconsin recall attempt. The author, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, points out the divisions among and within Wisconsin’s religious communities, which, he says, reflect divisions in the electorate as a whole. For example, on the central issue in the recall attempt, the right of public sector unions to bargain collectively, the Catholic archbishop of Milwaukee wrote  a letter supporting collective bargaining rights, while the Catholic bishop of Madison wrote a letter stating that reasonable people could disagree on the matter. In the end, most Catholics supported Governor Scott Walker: exit polls had him winning the Catholic vote by 10 points. This could portend a shift in Wisconsin politics, where Catholics traditionally vote Democratic, in contrast to Dutch Reformed Protestants, who typically vote Republican. The article contains one great quote that has nothing to do with the recall attempt, but that is nonetheless reflective of the American penchant for non-sectarianism we have discussed elsewhere on CLR Forum. At his inaugural prayer breakfast, the Born-Again Christian Scott Walker declared, “The great creator, no matter who you worship, is the one from which our freedoms are derived, not the government.” Can’t get more American than that.

D.C. Settles Lawsuit over Passover Elections

The Legal Times reports that the District of Columbia has settled an action brought against it by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Shalom – The National Synagogue, alleging that the District violated the First and Fifth Amendments by scheduling a special election on the last day of Passover. Because observant Jews cannot sign their names or use electronic devices on that holiday, Herzfeld claimed, city officials were imposing an unconstitutional burden on them.

According to the settlement agreement, Mayor Vincent Gray will recommend that the D.C. Council adopt legislation providing a window of time, rather than a mandatory date, to hold special elections. Although adoption by the Council is not guaranteed, Herzfeld’s attorney, Steven Lieberman, remarked, “I can’t believe that any representative of the people of the District of Columbia would be opposed to legislation that would broaden participation in elections.”