Last month, the Center co-sponsored a panel, “The Rise of the Nones and American Law,” featuring Professors Steven Collis (University of Texas), Mark Movsesian (St. John’s) and Gregory Sisk (University of St. Thomas–Minnesota). The panel explored how the explosion in the numbers of the religiously unaffiliated in contemporary America might affect jurisprudence under the Religion Clauses. In this episode of Legal Spirits, the panelists recap their arguments and offer some new ones. What impact will the Nones have on Establishment and Free Exercise in 21st century America? Listen in!
For all who are interested, here’s a writeup of our symposium last week on the rise of the Nones and its potential impact on the Religion Clauses. I participated in the symposium, which was co-sponsored by the St. John’s Law Review, along with Steve Collis of the Bech-Loughlin First Amendment Center at UT-Austin and Greg Sisk of the St. Thomas Law (Minnesota). We’re planning a podcast soon, so keep your ears open for that!
The Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s Law School invites you to attend: The Rise of the Nones and American Law. Millions of Americans—perhaps as high as 30% of the adult population—now tell surveyors that they have no religious affiliation. Most of these Americans, the “Nones,” do not reject belief, but traditional religious organizations. They have their own, personal spiritual commitments that draw on many sources. The Nones, who are beginning to show up in the case law, have the potential to transform establishment and free exercise jurisprudence.
Join us for a panel discussion about these issues with Professors Steven Collis (University of Texas Law School), Mark Movsesian (St. John’s), Gregory Sisk (University of St. Thomas School of Law), and Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York). This event is co-sponsored by the ST. JOHN’S JOURNAL OF CATHOLIC LEGAL STUDIES.
Here’s a nice writeup on the law school website of last week’s panel, “Law and Religion at the Supreme Court: New Directions,” with Judges Richard Sullivan (CA2) and Rachel Kovner (EDNY). Thanks to everyone who turned out on a rainy night!
Few, if any, philosophers have had the impact on American constitutional law that John Locke has had. This is especially true with respect to the Religion Clauses. Lockean ideas about the proper separation of church and state, filtered through the early Virginia experience and the writings of Madison and Jefferson, are so familiar to us today that it takes real effort to examine them objectively. A new book from the University of Chicago Press, America’s Philosopher: John Locke, by historian Claire Rydell Arcenas (University of Montana) suggests that throughout history Americans have appropriated Locke for their own ends. Looks very interesting. The publisher’s description follows:
America’s Philosopher examines how John Locke has been interpreted, reinterpreted, and misinterpreted over three centuries of American history.
The influence of polymath philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) can still be found in a dizzying range of fields, as his writings touch on issues of identity, republicanism, and the nature of knowledge itself. Claire Rydell Arcenas’s new book tells the story of Americans’ longstanding yet ever-mutable obsession with this English thinker’s ideas, a saga whose most recent manifestations have found the so-called Father of Liberalism held up as a right-wing icon.
The first book to detail Locke’s trans-Atlantic influence from the eighteenth century until today, America’s Philosopher shows how and why interpretations of his ideas have captivated Americans in ways few other philosophers—from any nation—ever have. As Arcenas makes clear, each generation has essentially remade Locke in its own image, taking inspiration and transmuting his ideas to suit the needs of the particular historical moment. Drawing from a host of vernacular sources to illuminate Locke’s often contradictory impact on American daily and intellectual life from before the Revolutionary War to the present, Arcenas delivers a pathbreaking work in the history of ideas.
The October 2021 term has ended with a bang. In this episode, we discuss the Court’s rulings in two significant church-and-state cases: Carson v. Makin, the Maine school funding case, and Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the case of the football coach who prayed at the 50-yard line. We explain how the Court ruled in these cases, why the cases are so significant (goodbye to Lemon!), and what they leave open for future decisions. Listen in!
Thomas Jefferson and his home state of Virginia have had a disproportionate influence on church-state law in America. Ever since Chief Justice Morrison Waite quoted Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists in Reynolds v. United States (1878)–a quotation that was more or less an accident, as our friend Don Drakeman has written–American judges have invoked Jefferson’s “wall of separation” whenever they have wished to endorse a strict segregation of church and state. Jefferson’s neighbor, James Madison, also appears regularly in judicial discussions. In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the Court’s first major Establishment Clause case, Justice Hugo Black cited “Madison’s Great Memorial and Remonstrance” in the Virginia Assessment controversy of 1784-86 as a true statement of First Amendment values. No matter that other Founders, and states, had rather different views on the subject. The Virginian experience has become the the Court’s most important historical point of reference.
In Jefferson and the Virginians, renowned scholar Peter S. Onuf examines the ways in which Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Virginians—George Washington, James Madison, and Patrick Henry—both conceptualized their home state from a political and cultural perspective, and understood its position in the new American union. The conversations Onuf reconstructs offer glimpses into the struggle to define Virginia—and America—within the context of the upheaval of the Revolutionary War. Onuf also demonstrates why Jefferson’s identity as a Virginian obscures more than it illuminates about his ideology and career.
Onuf contends that Jefferson and his interlocutors sought to define Virginia’s character as a self-constituted commonwealth and to determine the state’s place in the American union during an era of constitutional change and political polarization. Thus, the outcome of the American Revolution led to ongoing controversies over the identity of Virginians and Americans as a “people” or “peoples”; over Virginia’s boundaries and jurisdiction within the union; and over the system of government in Virginia and for the states collectively. Each debate required a balanced consideration of corporate identity and collective interests, which inevitably raised broader questions about the character of the Articles of Confederation and the newly formed federal union. Onuf’s well-researched study reveals how this indeterminacy demanded definition and, likewise, how the need for definition prompted further controversy.
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 Read more
I’m delighted to post this notice for a new book of essays by my old master, Kent Greenawalt: From the Bottom Up: Selected Essays. These previously published and newly collected essays span Kent’s writing life and do an excellent job of conveying his immense and broad erudition. They cover topics including the bases of law (public reasons, natural law, religious reasons, and so on); law and objectivity; and several subject specific inquiries (in criminal law, law and religion, and speech law).
As a compendious but complete introduction to Kent’s thought, you cannot do better. I was honored to provide this book blurb:
A crucial book for understanding the mind of one of the great legal scholars of our time. Kent Greenawalt’s core insight, developed over a scholarly life and across several disciplines, is that the law is best understood inductively–not by drawing hard dividing lines between legal concepts and categories but instead by asking careful questions about how the law works itself out in the real world.
Throughout American history, legal battles concerning the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty have been among the most contentious issue of the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Religious Liberty and the American Supreme Court: The Essential Cases and Documents represents the most authoritative and up-to-date overview of the landmark cases that have defined religious freedom in America. Noted religious liberty expert Vincent Philip Munoz (Notre Dame) provides carefully edited excerpts from over fifty of the most important Supreme Court religious liberty cases. In addition, Munoz’s substantive introduction offers an overview on the constitutional history of religious liberty in America. Introductory headnotes to each case provides the constitutional and historical context. Religious Liberty and the American Supreme Court is an indispensable resource for anyone interested matters of religious freedom from the Republic’s earliest days to current debates.