Steven Green on the History of Disestablishment in America

9780190908140Many people don’t realize it, but for most of our history the Establishment Clause didn’t figure prominently in Supreme Court litigation. In fact, the Court’s first major Establishment Clause case, Everson v. Board of Education, didn’t come until 1947. That’s not to say that Americans didn’t think much about the Clause before that time–obviously, they did. But the Court didn’t seriously consider the meaning of the Clause until after the Second World War. Why did it take so long, and why did it happen then? Could have been many reasons, I suppose: the decline of the Protestant cultural ascendancy; the maturing of minority religious communities in American society; the beginnings of secularism as an important fact in American life. Anyway, it’s a fact that the Court was a relative latecomer to debates about church-and-state in America.

A new book from Willamette University Law Professor Steven K. Green documents the history of church-state relations in the generation after Everson. The book is The Third Disestablishment: Church, State, and American Culture, 1940-1975. The publisher is Oxford University Press. Here’s the description from the Oxford website:

In 1947, the Supreme Court embraced the concept of church-state separation as shorthand for the meaning of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The concept became embedded in Court’s jurisprudence and remains so today. Yet separation of church and state is not just a legal construct; it is embedded in the culture. Church-state separation was a popular cultural ideal, chiefly for Protestants and secularists, long before the Supreme Court adopted it as a constitutional principle. While the Court’s church-state decisions have impacted public attitudes–particularly those controversial holdings regarding prayer and Bible reading in public schools–the idea of church-state separation has remained relatively popular; recent studies indicate that approximately two-thirds of Americans support the concept, even though they disagree over how to apply it.

In the follow up to his 2010 book The Second Disestablishment, Steven K. Green sets out to do examine the development of modern separationism from a legal and cultural perspective. The Third Disestablishment examines the dominant religious-cultural conflicts of the 1930s-1950s between Protestants and Catholics, but it also shows how other trends and controversies during mid-century impacted both judicial and popular attitudes toward church-state separation: the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ cases of the late-30s and early-40’s, Cold War anti-communism, the religious revival and the rise of civil religion, the advent of ecumenism, and the presidential campaign of 1960. The book then examines how events of the 1960s-the school prayer decisions, the reforms of Vatican II, and the enactment of comprehensive federal education legislation providing assistance to religious schools-produced a rupture in the Protestant consensus over church-state separation, causing both evangelicals and religious progressives to rethink their commitment to that principle. Green concludes by examining a series of church-state cases in the late-60s and early-70s where the justices applied notions of church-state separation at the same time they were reevaluating that concept.

Tugendhat, “Liberty Intact”

As readers of this blog know, the Center is in the midst of a three-year research project, the Tradition Project, which examines the continuing relevance of tradition–the received wisdom of the past–for law, politics, and culture. At our first meeting last fall, we focused on tradition in law and, specifically, the traditionalism of the common law method. A new book by Sir Michael Tugendhat, a Judge of the High Court of England and Wales, Liberty Intact: Human Rights in English Law (Oxford) argues that contemporary human rights law derives from English common law antecedents. Several participants in the Tradition Project would no doubt agree. Here’s a description from the Oxford website:

9780198790990 (1)What are the connections between conceptions of rights found in English law and those found in bills of rights around the World? How has English Common Law influenced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948 and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) 1950? These questions and more are answered in Michael Tugendhat’s historical account of human rights from the eighteenth century to present day.

Focusing specifically on the first modern declarations of the rights of mankind- the ‘Virginian Declaration of Rights’, 1776, the French ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’, 1789, and the ‘United States Bill of Rights’, 1791- the book recognises that the human rights documented in these declarations of the eighteenth century were already enshrined in English common law, many originating from English law and politics of the fifteenth century. The influence of English Common Law , taken largely from Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, can also be realised in the British revolutions of 1642 and 1688; the American and French Revolutions of 1776 and 1789 respectively; and through them, on the UDHR and ECHR. Moreover, Tugendhat argues that British law, in all but a few instances, either meets or exceeds human rights standards, and thus demonstrates that human rights law is British law and not a recent invention imported from abroad.

Structured in three sections, this volume (I) provides a brief history of human rights; (II) examines the rights found in the American and French declarations and demonstrates their ancestry with English law; and (III) discusses the functions of rights and how they have been, and are, put to use.

“The History of Courts and Procedure in Medieval Canon Law” (Hartmann & Pennington, eds.)

In September, the Catholic University of America Press released “The History of Courts and Procedure in Medieval Canon Law,” edited by Wilfried Hartmann (University of Tübingen) and Kenneth Pennington (Catholic University of America).  The publisher’s description follows:

Understanding the rules of procedure and the practices of medieval and early modern 61hxavywqzlcourts is of great importance for historians of every stripe. The authors and editors of this volume present readers with a description of court procedure, the sources for investigating the work of the courts, the jurisprudence and the norms that regulated the courts, as well as a survey of the variety of courts that populated the European landscape. Not least, the authors wish to show the relationship between the jurisprudence that governed judicial procedure and what happened in the court room.

By the end of the thirteenth century, court procedure in continental Europe in secular and ecclesiastical courts shared many characteristics. As the academic jurists of the Ius commune began to excavate the norms of procedure from Justinian’s great codification of law and then to expound them in the classroom and in their writings, they shaped the structure of ecclesiastical courts and secular courts as well. These essays also illuminate striking differences in the sources that we find in different parts of Europe. In northern Europe the archives are rich but do not always provide the details we need to understand a particular case. In Italy and Southern France the documentation is more detailed than in other parts of Europe but here too the historical records do not answer every question we might pose to them. In Spain, detailed documentation is strangely lacking, if not altogether absent. Iberian conciliar canons and tracts on procedure tell us much about practice in Spanish courts. As these essays demonstrate, scholars who want to peer into the medieval courtroom, must also read letters, papal decretals, chronicles, conciliar canons, and consilia to provide a nuanced and complete picture of what happened in medieval trials. This volume will give sophisticated guidance to all readers with an interest in European law and courts.

Witte & Nichols, “Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment” (4th ed)

In April, Oxford University Press released the fourth edition of Religion and the American 9780190459420Constitutional Experiment, by John Witte, Jr. (Emory) and Joel Nichols (St. Thomas-Minnesota). The publisher’s description follows:

This accessible introduction tells the American story of religious liberty from its colonial beginnings to the latest Supreme Court cases. The authors provide extensive analysis of the formation of the First Amendment religion clauses and the plausible original intent or understanding of the founders. They describe the enduring principles of American religious freedom–liberty of conscience, free exercise of religion, religious equality, religious pluralism, separation of church and state, and no establishment of religion–as those principles were developed by the founders and applied by the Supreme Court. Successive chapters analyze the two hundred plus Supreme Court Continue reading

Price, “At the Cross”

In July, the Oxford University Press released “At the Cross: Race, Religion, and Citizenship in the Politics of the Death Penalty” by Melynda J. Price (University of Kentucky College of Law).  The publisher’s description follows:

Curing systemic inequalities in the criminal justice system is the unfinished business of the Civil Rights movement. No part of that system highlights this truth more than the current implementation of the death penalty. At the Cross tells a story of the relationship between the death penalty and race in American politics that complicates the common belief that individual African Americans, especially poor African Americans, are more subject to the death penalty in criminal cases. The current death penalty regime operates quite differently than it did in the past. The findings of this research demonstrate the the racial inequity in the meting out of death sentences has legal and political externalities that move beyond individual defendants to larger numbers of African Americans.

At the Cross looks at the meaning of the death penalty to and for African Americans by using various sites of analysis. Using various sites of analysis, Price shows the connection between criminal justice policies like the death penalty and the political and legal rights of African Americans who are tangentially connected to the criminal justice system through familial and social networks. Drawing on black politics, legal and political theory and narrative analysis, Price utilizes a mixed-method approach that incorporates analysis of media reports, capital jury selection and survey data, as well as original focus group data. As the rates of incarceration trend upward, Black politics scholars have focused on the impact of incarceration on the voting strength of the black community. Local, and even regional, narratives of African American politics and the death penalty expose the fractures in American democracy that foment perceptions of exclusion among blacks.

Serajuddin, “Cases on Muslim Law of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh”

In September, Oxford University Press released “Cases on Muslim Law of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh,” by Alamgir Muhammad Serajuddin (University of Chittagong, Bangladesh).   The publisher’s description follows:

Muslim law is an integral part of the South Asian legal system, and case law plays a major role in its interpretation, application, and development. Through a selection of principal judicial decisions and significant fact situations from pre- and post-independent India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, this volume provides an easy access to the basic principles and rules of Muslim law, and shows how case law acts as a social barometer and an instrument of change.

The cases discussed cover such diverse areas as sources and interpretation of law, institution of marriage, polygamous marriages, dower, restitution of conjugal rights, talaq, khula, irreconcilable breakdown of marriage, legitimacy, guardianship, and maintenance of wives and divorced wives. Among the important legislations, it covers Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939, Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, and Muslim Women Act 1986.

The book also shows how religion-based rules of personal law have been interpreted by secular courts during certain epochs in history and how the trend of interpretation has changed over the last 150 years.

Kleidosty, “The Concert of Civilizations”

In July, Ashgate released “The Concert of Civilizations: The Common Roots of Western and Islamic Constitutionalism,” by Jeremy Kleidosty (University of Jyväskylä, Finland).  The publisher’s description follows:

Are Western and Islamic political and constitutional ideas truly predestined for civilizational clash? In order to understand this controversy The Concert of Civilizations begins by deriving and redefining a definition of constitutionalism that is suitable for comparative, cross-cultural analysis. The rule of law, reflection of national character, and the clear delineation and limitation of governmental power are used as lenses through which thinkers like Cicero, Montesquieu, and the authors of The Federalist Papers can be read alongside al-Farabi, ibn Khaldun, and the Ottoman Tanzimat decrees. Bridging the civilizational divide is a chapter comparing the Magna Carta with Muhammad’sConstitution of Medina, as both documents can be seen as foundational within their traditions. For the first time in political theory, this text also provides a sustained, detailed analysis of Khayr al-Din al-Tunisi’s book The Surest Path, which explains his fusion of Muslim and Western ideas in his writing of Tunisia’s first modern constitution, which is also the first constitution for a majority-Muslim state. Finally, the book discusses the Arab Spring through a brief overview of the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, and offers some early thoughts about Tunisia’s uniquely successful revolution.

Petro, “After the Wrath of God”

In April, the Oxford University Press released “After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion,” by Anthony M. Petro (Boston University). The publisher’s description follows:

On a cold February morning in 1987, amidst freezing rain and driving winds, a group of protesters stood outside of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Amherst, Massachusetts. The target of their protest was the minister inside, who was handing out condoms to his congregation while delivering a sermon about AIDS, dramatizing the need for the church to confront the seemingly ever-expanding crisis. The minister’s words and actions were met with a standing ovation from the overflowing audience, but he could not linger to enjoy their applause. Having received threats in advance of the service, he dashed out of the sanctuary immediately upon finishing his sermon. Such was the climate for religious AIDS activism in the 1980s.

In After the Wrath of God, Anthony Petro vividly narrates the religious history of AIDS in America. Delving into the culture wars over sex, morality, and the future of the American nation, he demonstrates how religious leaders and AIDS activists have shaped debates over sexual morality and public health from the 1980s to the present day. While most attention to religion and AIDS foregrounds the role of the Religious Right, Petro takes a much broader view, encompassing the range of mainline Protestant, evangelical, and Catholic groups–alongside AIDS activist organizations–that shaped public discussions of AIDS prevention and care in the U.S. Petro analyzes how the AIDS crisis prompted American Christians across denominations and political persuasions to speak publicly about sexuality–especially homosexuality–and to foster a moral discourse on sex that spoke not only to personal concerns but to anxieties about the health of the nation. He reveals how the epidemic increased efforts to advance a moral agenda regarding the health benefits of abstinence and monogamy, a legacy glimpsed as much in the traction gained by abstinence education campaigns as in the more recent cultural purchase of gay marriage.

The first book to detail the history of religion and the AIDS epidemic in the U.S., After the Wrath of God is essential reading for anyone concerned with the intersection of religion and public health.

“Disagreements of the Jurists” (Stewart, trans. & ed.)

Earlier this year, the New York University Press released “Disagreements of the Jurists: A Manual of Islamic Legal Theory,” by Al-Qadi al-Nuʿman, edited and translated by Devin Stewart (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:

Al-Qadi al-Nuʿman was the chief legal theorist and ideologue of the North African Fatimid dynasty in the tenth century. This translation makes available in English for the first time his major work on Islamic legal theory, which presents a legal model in support of the Fatimids’ principle of legitimate rule over the Islamic community. Composed as part of a grand project to establish the theoretical bases of the official Fatimid legal school, Disagreements of the Jurists expounds a distinctly Shiʿi system of hermeneutics, which refutes the methods of legal interpretation adopted by Sunni jurists.

The work begins with a discussion of the historical causes of jurisprudential divergence in the first Islamic centuries, and goes on to address, point by point, the specific interpretive methods of Sunni legal theory, arguing that they are both illegitimate and ineffective. While its immediate mission is to pave the foundation of the legal Ismaʿili tradition, the text also preserves several Islamic legal theoretical works no longer extant—including Ibn Dawud’s manual, al-Wusul ila maʿrifat al-usul—and thus throws light on a critical stage in the historical development of Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh) that would otherwise be lost to history.  

Sobecki, “Unwritten Verities”

This March, Notre Dame University Press released the fascinating lookingSobecki volume, Unwritten Verities: The Making of England’s Vernacular Legal Culture, 1463-1549, by Sebastian Sobecki (University of Groningen). The publisher’s description follows.

In Unwritten Verities: The Making of England’s Vernacular Legal Culture, 1463-1549, Sebastian Sobecki argues that the commitment by English common law to an unwritten tradition, along with its association with Lancastrian political ideas of consensual government, generated a vernacular legal culture on the eve of the Reformation that challenged the centralizing ambitions of Tudor monarchs, the scriptural literalism of ardent Protestants, and the Latinity of English humanists.

Sobecki identifies the widespread dissemination of legal books and William Caxton’s printing of the Statutes of Henry VII as crucial events in the creation of a vernacular legal culture. He reveals the impact of medieval concepts of language, governance, and unwritten authority on such sixteenth-century humanists, reformers, playwrights, and legal writers as John Rastell, Thomas Elyot, Christopher St. German, Edmund Dudley, John Heywood, and Thomas Starkey. Unwritten Verities argues that three significant developments contributed to the emergence of a vernacular legal culture in fifteenth-century England: medieval literary theories of translation, a Lancastrian legacy of conciliar government, and an adherence to unwritten tradition. This vernacular legal culture, in turn, challenged the textual practices of English humanism and the early Reformation in the following century. Ultimately, the spread of vernacular law books found a response in the popular rebellions of 1549, at the helm of which often stood petitioners trained in legal writing. Informed by new developments in medieval literature and early modern social history, Unwritten Verities sheds new light on law printing, John Fortescue’s constitutional thought, ideas of the commonwealth, and the role of French in medieval and Tudor England.

%d bloggers like this: