Pearson, “Proportionality, Equality Laws and Religion”

In March, Routledge will release “Proportionality, Equality Laws and Religion:  Conflicts in England, Canada and the USA,” by Megan Pearson (University of Southampton).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book considers how the law should manage conflicts between the right of religious freedom and that of non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual 9781472456502orientation. These disputes are often high-profile and frequently receive a lot of media attention and public debate. Starting from the basis that both these rights are valuable and worthy of protection, but that such disputes are often characterised by animosity, it contends that a proportionality analysis provides the best method for resolving these conflicts. The work takes a comparative approach, examining the law in England and Wales, Canada and the USA and examines four main areas of law, considering how a proportionality approach could be used in each. The book will be an invaluable resource for students and researchers in the areas of Public Law, Human Rights Law, Law and Religion, Discrimination Law, and Comparative Law.

Weatherford, “Genghis Khan and the Quest for God”

I know almost nothing about Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire. And so it’s not fair for me to criticize a book by an expert who has spent many years studying the subject. Still, I’ll go out on a limb and say I am deeply skeptical of the claim that Americans owe to the Mongols our principle of religious freedom. I expect the Framers would have been skeptical, too, though the possibility does open up new avenues for Originalist research.

That we owe our religious freedom to the Mongols is one of the claims made in this new book from Penguin Random House, Genghis Khan and the Quest for God, by anthropologist Jack Weatherford. Judge for yourselves. The publisher’s description follows (H/T: Chris Borgen):

 

 

Around the Web

Here are some news stories involving law and religion from this past week:

Vickers, “Religious Freedom, Religious Discrimination and the Workplace” (2d ed.)

In March, Hart Publishing released the second edition of Religious Freedom, Religious Discrimination and the Workplace by Lucy Vickers (Oxford Brookes University). The publisher’s description follows:

religious-freedom-and-religious-discriminationThis book considers the extent to which religious interests are protected at work, with particular reference to the protection against religious discrimination provided by the Equality Act 2010. It establishes a principled basis for determining the proper scope of religious freedom at work, and considers the interaction of freedom of religion with the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of religion and belief. The book locates the debates surrounding religion and belief equality within a philosophical and theoretical framework in which the importance of freedom of religion and its role within the workplace are fully debated.This second edition is fully revised and updated in the light of recent case law from the UK and the European Court of Human Rights, which deals with religious discrimination and freedom of religion.

 

Morsink, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Challenge of Religion”

In January, the University of Missouri Press will release “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Challenge of Religion,” by Johannes Morsink (Drew University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Repulsed by evil Nazi practices and desiring to create a better world after the productimagehandlerdevastation of World War II, in 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Because of the secular imprint of this text, it has faced a series of challenges from the world’s religions, both when it was crafted and in subsequent political and legal struggles.

The book mixes philosophical, legal, and archival arguments to make the point that the language of human rights is a valid one to address the world’s disputes. It updates the rationale used by the early UN visionaries and makes it available to twenty-first-century believers and unbelievers alike. The book shows how the debates that informed the adoption of this pivotal normative international text can be used by scholars to make broad and important policy points.

No Protestants on the Court

At the Liberty Law site this morning, I have a post on the absence of Protestant Christians on the Supreme Court. In historical terms, the lack of Protestants is a striking anomaly–the large majority of the 112 men and women who have sat as Justices over time has been Protestant. What explains the current situation, and might it have an effect on American law?

With regard to the first question, I argue that the absence of Protestants as to to with larger social and cultural questions. With respect to the second question, I argue, it depends on what sort of Protestant, and what sort of legal issues, one has in mind:

If Reno is right about the transformation of Mainline Protestantism into a post-Protestant WASP ethos, then it shouldn’t matter whether actual Mainline Protestants are on the Court. Given the composition of the legal profession, most people likely to be appointed to the Court will have post-Protestant WASP values, whatever their particular faith tradition. Recall my example of the Catholic or Orthodox 1L at Harvard. Post-Protestant WASP values, in other words, will be represented even without actual Mainline Protestants.

On the other hand, the absence of Evangelicals might make a difference to the Court’s decisions, at least with regard to some issues—for example, questions regarding religious liberty. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which abandoned the test for constitutional purposes, most hot-button religious liberty cases nowadays turn on some version of the “compelling interest” test. This test holds that the government cannot substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless it has a compelling interest for doing so and has chosen the least restrictive means. This is the test contained in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), for example—the statute at issue in the Court’s recent decisions regarding the contraception mandate in Obamacare.

The compelling interest test requires many judgment calls: What is a “substantial burden” on religious exercise? What is a “compelling interest”? Is there a “less restrictive means” available? (In fact, it was the necessity of such intuitive judgments that led the Smith Court to abandon the compelling interest test in the constitutional context). And judgment calls depend on the intuitions of the people doing the judging. An Evangelical Christian likely would have different intuitions about these matters than a post-Protestant WASP who views religions as more or less interchangeable, and anyway not all that important. Someone who views religion as a vital guide to behavior might be more skeptical of claims that a rule does not “substantially burden” religious exercise, or that the government has offered a “compelling” interest to justify the intrusion.

In short, on at least some questions, the religious background of the justices could well make a difference, and the absence of Evangelicals on the Court affect the course of the law. You can read the whole post here.

Tebbe, “Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age”

In January, Harvard University Press will release Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age by Nelson Tebbe (Brooklyn Law School). )The Center co-sponsored a symposium on Nelson’s book earlier this fall). The publisher’s description follows:

religious-freedom-in-an-egalitarian-ageTensions between religious freedom and equality law are newly strained in America. As lawmakers work to protect LGBT citizens and women seeking reproductive freedom, religious traditionalists assert their right to dissent from what they see as a new liberal orthodoxy. Some religious advocates are going further and expressing skepticism that egalitarianism can be defended with reasons at all. Legal experts have not offered a satisfying response—until now.

Nelson Tebbe argues that these disputes, which are admittedly complex, nevertheless can be resolved without irrationality or arbitrariness. In Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age, he advances a method called social coherence, based on the way that people reason through moral problems in everyday life. Social coherence provides a way to reach justified conclusions in constitutional law, even in situations that pit multiple values against each other. Tebbe contends that reasons must play a role in the resolution of these conflicts, alongside interests and ideologies. Otherwise, the health of democratic constitutionalism could suffer.

Applying this method to a range of real-world cases, Tebbe offers a set of powerful principles for mediating between religion and equality law, and he shows how they can lead to workable solutions in areas ranging from employment discrimination and public accommodations to government officials and public funding. While social coherence does not guarantee outcomes that will please the liberal Left, it does point the way toward reasoned, nonarbitrary solutions to the current impasse.

Berg: Free Exercise Exemptions and the Original Understanding

This autumn, we have been hosting an online symposium on Vincent Phillip Muñoz‘s new article, “Two Concepts of Religious Liberty.” In today’s post, Thomas Berg (University of St. Thomas (Minnesota)) responds to Muñoz. For other posts in this series, please click here.

In his excellent journal article “Two Concepts of Religious Liberty,”[1] and in a recent LRF blog post,[2] Vincent Philip Muñoz argues that the founders’ natural-rights theory of religious freedom is very different from the modern practice of protecting religious exercise through exemption from otherwise valid, generally applicable laws. The original understanding, he says, supports the rule of Employment Division v. Smith’s rejection of mandatory exemptions under the Free Exercise, rather than Sherbert v. Verner’s rule mandating exemptions unless the government can show a “compelling interest” in burdening religious exercise. And Muñoz criticizes the arguments of Michael McConnell, who concluded that while the question was close, “[t]he historical record casts doubt on [Smith’s] interpretation of the free exercise clause.”[3]

Under current law, this historical debate is of limited importance. Although the exemptions approach has been rejected for the Free Exercise Clause, it has been adopted in some form in federal legislation[4] and in the legislation or constitutional rulings of more than 30 states. As a result, the exemptions approach applies to all federal laws, to every state’s land use and prison regulations, and, in much of the nation, to the full body of state and local laws. Muñoz says that legislatures should decide whether to exempt religion from general law; many of them have decided to do so through religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs), federal and state.

In fact, however, the exemptions approach finds considerable support in the religious-freedom tradition of the founding; it may even be the best historical reading, although that is a difficult question. Smith was not dictated by originalism; the Court should be willing to entertain modifying or overruling it; and at the very least legislatures and state courts should feel no embarrassment at adopting the exemptions approach. I will first discuss the historical issues and then turn to some of Muñoz’s other qualms about the exemptions approach.

The Original Understanding, Exemptions, and “Harms to Others”

Muñoz’s journal article focuses heavily on the natural-rights outlook of the framers, arguing that it supports a “jurisdictional” approach that simply prevents government from regulating religion as religion: that is, from targeting it with a non-neutral law. But that argument ignored the aspect of founding-era history that, for McConnell, was the Continue reading

Weatherford, “Genghis Khan and the Quest for God”

Last month, Penguin Random House Press released Genghis Khan and the Quest for God: How the World’s Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious Freedom by Jack Weatherford (Former Professor, Macalaster College, Minnesota). The publisher’s description follows:

genghis-kahnA landmark biography by the New York Times bestselling author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World that reveals how Genghis harnessed the power of religion to rule the largest empire the world has ever known.

Throughout history the world’s greatest conquerors have made their mark not just on the battlefield, but in the societies they have transformed. Genghis Khan conquered by arms and bravery, but he ruled by commerce and religion. He created the world’s greatest trading network and drastically lowered taxes for merchants, but he knew that if his empire was going to last, he would need something stronger and more binding than trade. He needed religion. And so, unlike the Christian, Taoist and Muslim conquerors who came before him, he gave his subjects freedom of religion. Genghis lived in the 13th century, but he struggled with many of the same problems we face today: How should one balance religious freedom with the need to reign in fanatics? Can one compel rival religions – driven by deep seated hatred–to live together in peace?

A celebrated anthropologist whose bestselling Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World radically transformed our understanding of the Mongols and their legacy, Jack Weatherford has spent eighteen years exploring areas of Mongolia closed until the fall of the Soviet Union and researching The Secret History of the Mongols, an astonishing document written in code that was only recently discovered. He pored through archives and found groundbreaking evidence of Genghis’s influence on the founding fathers and his essential impact on Thomas Jefferson. Genghis Khan and the Quest for God is a masterpiece of erudition and insight, his most personal and resonant work.

Meshugas About Chickens

That’s the title of this post I have over at the Liberty Law blog, discussing a recent controversy in California related to Yom Kippur. A bit:

As a society becomes more secular, what happens to religious rituals, customs, and ways of life that cannot be explained or justified in secular terms? When the freedom to engage in such practices is no longer presumed to be a good because of a firm commitment to religion as a social value, little stands in the way of its becoming just one more special interest. Religious freedom is then thrown into the bin of social oddities, to be haggled over and negotiated against whatever other idiosyncratic predilections one happens to find in there.

Witness the case of United Poultry Concerns v. Chabad of Irvine. The plaintiff is a California organization devoted to “promoting the respectful and compassionate treatment of domestic fowl” that leads protests, for example, against the use of eggs in the White House Easter-Egg Roll. Indeed, UPC seems to observe a fairly regular schedule of outrage, no doubt because many holidays, religious and otherwise, tend to involve an adversarial relationship with poultry. (With Thanksgiving on the horizon, the group’s web site is showcasing a book called More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality.)

Over the last two weeks, UPC has been involved in a legal effort to stop a Jewish practice called kaparot that is performed on the day before Yom Kippur. Only a small number of Jews in the United States perform this ceremony, and it involves a trained rabbi swinging a chicken in the air and then slaughtering the animal. (“Kaparot” means atonement.)

The tireless Josh Blackman, who has been involved with the case, has a very complete description of the proceedings. The long and short of it is that a federal District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the practice earlier this month, citing a California state animal-cruelty provision, though the judge would have been well advised to consider both the federal Humane Slaughter Act and the Supreme Court’s decision in Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993) before acting. The judge ordered pre-trial conferences, briefs, and hearings to be conducted and filed immediately thereafter, right smack dab during the most important week in the Jewish calendar.

Perhaps most telling of all was that the hearing on the temporary restraining order was scheduled for October 13, the day after Yom Kippur, which Professor Blackman amusingly analogizes to scheduling a hearing for December 26 on an order to prohibit a ceremony performed on Christmas day. The judge eventually lifted the order just hours before sundown on October 12, rendering it impossible as a practical matter for the synagogue’s members to perform the ceremony.

Indeed, as Professor Blackman notes, the timing of the legal proceeding was obviously calculated by the plaintiffs to cause as much disruption and distress as it possibly could (the lawsuit could have been filed really at any other time), respectful treatment of chickens being one thing and respectful treatment of religious believers quite another. The judge seems to have been either utterly unaware of these issues or utterly uninterested in them.

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