This weekend, I participated in the Federal Bar Council’s 2012 Fall Bench and Bar Retreat in Skytop, Pennsylvania. I spoke on a panel, “First Amendment: The State of Freedom of Religion in 2012,” which addressed the ministerial exception, the contraception mandate, and Judge Preska’s recent opinion in the Bronx Household case. My fellow panelists were Judge Raymond Dearie (EDNY), Professor Kent Greenawalt (Columbia), and attorneys Gregory Lipper (Americans United for the Separation of Church and State) and Eric Rassbach (The Becket Fund). Thanks to the Council, and especially program coordinators Brad Glick, Linda Goldstein, and Steve Weyer for inviting me.
I’m here today at this year’s Religion and Civil Society Conference, “The Changing Faces of ‘Religion’ and ‘Secularity,’” organized by the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Navarra and hosted by Harvard Law School. This morning’s first speaker was Harvard’s Mary Ann Glendon, who opened the conference by offering a helpful roadmap of the current social science literature regarding secularization.
Glendon argued against simplistic evaluations of religion’s place in civil society. Organized religion does seem to be in decline in the West, as the old secularization theory predicted, but there is also an upsurge in “political religion” in many parts of the world. She identified four new, competing “grand narratives” regarding secularization: (1) the “New Atheism” of writers like Hitchens, which celebrates the decline of religion; (2) the “Melancholy Secularism” of Habermas and Pera, which agrees that religion is in decline but views this as a sorry development that will lead to the abandonment of the Judeo-Christian values that support classical liberalism; (3) the “Cultural Secularism” associated with Charles Taylor, which describes, in a more or less detached way, a society in which religious belief is only one option among many; and (4) the “Positive Secularism” of Pope Benedict XVI, which advocates state neutrality, not hostility, toward religion. Ironically, Glendon noted, this last version, championed by the Catholic Church today, shows more sympathy for the Enlightenment value of religious liberty than the New Atheism, which sees itself as the heir of the Enlightenment. She closed with some reflections on the role of social scientists in assessing the contemporary place of religion in society.
I’ll be participating tomorrow in “The Changing Faces of Religion and Secularity,” a conference taking place at Harvard Law School. The program is here. CLR Friends in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello.
Lectures from the 2012 Legal Theory Conference – “The Competing Claims of Law and Religion” – are now available online in audio and video format. Marc DeGirolami’s lecture, entitled “The Method of Tragedy and History Applied” is available here and Mark Movsesian’s lecture, entitled “Crosses and Culture: Public Religious Symbols in the U.S. and Europe” is available here (lecture begins at 35:15).
I’ll be participating on a panel tonight, “Sharing Sacred Space in Jerusalem,” at Fordham Law School’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work. The panel will address how religious space in Jerusalem has been shared historically, how religious communities have interpreted customary law, and how they have engaged each other to resolve conflict. I’ll be discussing relations among Christians at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City. Details are here. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello.
Just a reminder that I’ll be speaking tonight at the First Things editorial offices in Manhattan on the subject of equality for Christians in the Middle East. Details are here. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hello.
The Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics is hosting a conference entitled, “The Competing Claims of Law and Religion: Who Should Influence Whom?” this weekend at Pepperdine School of Law. The Conference begins today and continue through Saturday. On Friday, Marc DeGirolami will be presenting a talk entitled, “The Method of Tragedy and History Applied.” On Saturday, Mark Movsesian will be presenting his talk, “Crosses and Culture: Public Religious Symbols in the U.S. and Europe.” Both Marc and Mark will be liveblogging from the conference throughout the weekend.
CLR Director Mark Movsesian will be the speaker at the Guild of Catholic Lawyers First Friday program on Friday, November 4. His talk on the legal situation of Christians in the Middle East will begin at 8:15 am at the Church of Our Saviour, 59 Park Ave. (at 38th St.). For details, please contact Robert E. Crotty at Kelley Drye & Warren, LLP.
I spent last weekend participating in an interesting Federalist Society/Liberty Fund colloquium, “International Law, Foreign Law, and the Constitution.” Some of readings for the colloquium discussed the development of the concept of sovereignty in international law. It’s striking how closely the concept relates, historically, to the Protestant Reformation. The great theoreticians of sovereignty were mostly, though not exclusively, Protestants seeking to provide an intellectual grounding for the Westphalian system, people like Grotius and Vattel, though Vattel is more an Enlightenment than a Christian thinker, it seems to me. Even Bodin, the 16th Century French writer credited with the first comprehensive theory of sovereignty, was a crypto-Protestant, at least according to the Tudor secret police.
The core components of Westphalian sovereignty were the equality and independence of states. Each state had an equal right to govern itself and no state had the right to meddle in another’s internal affairs. The non-interference principle extended especially to religion. According to Vattel, for example, the Law of Nations, a set of rules derived from natural law, prohibited attempts to impose the “true faith” on a state from the outside. In fact, Vattel argued, even peaceful missionary work was prohibited, unless the local government allowed it. (Vattel made an exception for the Twelve Apostles; they had resisted the state’s attempts to silence them, he conceded, but they could perform miracles). Sovereignty, presented as a matter of natural law, greatly assisted the Protestant Reformers, who were seeking a principled, “neutral” justification for resisting the Catholic Church’s assertions of universal jurisdiction. It takes a natural law to beat a natural law.
Protestants and Catholics don’t fight about these things so much anymore, but one can see a similar pattern in contemporary disputes about international human rights. Even though contemporary human rights law tends to speak in a secular idiom, it’s hard to miss the strong religious, natural law aspect of some of its key concepts, such as “human dignity.” International human rights advocates assert that these concepts are universally true and must apply as a matter of law everywhere. States that resist, in turn, often assert their sovereignty, and their position is often a moral one: “You can’t impose your norms here, because this is our country, and we have the right to decide.” Sovereignty thus continues to serve its historical function as a mechanism for resisting centralized moral authority in a fight about ultimate value. – MLM
(UPDATE: A video of the panel discussion, “Religious and Secular Law,” can be viewed in the player below. This post was originally posted on October 11, 2011 – ARH)
I just participated in Forum 2000’s final law-and-religion panel, “Religious and Secular Law.” The panel was chaired by Anna Teresa Arco, the Chief Feature Writer for the Catholic Herald, who opened the panel with an erudite introduction to the topic. In my remarks, I argued that the relationship between secular and religious law will be a crucial issue in the years ahead. Religion is resurging around the world, and there will likely be many occasions of conflict between secular and religious law. I discussed two doctrinal examples from the United States: the ministerial exception, currently before the Court in Hosanna-Tabor, and restrictions on religious practice under Employment Division v. Smith. Czech Judge Ivana Hrdličková followed with a discussion of the interaction between Islamic and secular law in Europe, especially with regard to family law. Professor Luboš Krobáček, a scholar of Islamic civilization at Charles University in Prague, closed the panel with an overview of the different schools of Islamic law. – MLM