Symposium: Religious Freedom Today (New York, September 16)

The Center for Law and Religion is pleased to co-sponsor a symposium on Professor Nelson Tebbe’s forthcoming book, Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age, here at St. John’s Law School next month. The symposium is also sponsored by the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development and the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights. In addition to the author, participants include Carlos Ball (Rutgers-Newark), Alan Brownstein (UC-Davis), Chad Flanders (St. Louis), Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern), and Patricia Marino (Waterloo). For more information, please click here.

 

Regent to Host the 2016 Conference of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools

On September 29-30, Regent University School of Law will host the annual Religiously Affiliated Law Schools conference. Speakers include Professors Robert Cochran (Pepperdine), Robin Fretwell Wilson (University of Illinois), and Linda McClain (Boston University) and State Senator Stuart Adams (Utah). For the conference schedule and further information, click here.

The End of the Liberal Tradition?

At the First Things site today, I have an essay about a remarkable new paper from political scientists Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk on the growing opposition to liberal democracy among American Millennials–especially wealthy Millennials. For example, the authors write, surveys reveal that 35% of wealthy young Americans think it would be a good thing for the military to take over the government!

In my essay, I argue that the surveys reveal the decline of yet another American tradition: liberalism itself:

Liberalism is often understood as propositional, as a series of abstract principles. This understanding has led scholars like Fukuyama to think that liberalism can be easily exported to other cultures; it has formed the basis for much American foreign policy, especially in recent decades. In important ways, this understanding is correct. Liberalism does justify itself largely on the basis of ideas. The Framers of the American Constitution, for example, were strongly influenced by Enlightenment concepts of reason and rational government.

In a deeper sense, though, liberalism generally, and American liberalism specifically, is a tradition, the organic working-out of precedent, over time, in a particular political culture. The American Framers were figures of the Enlightenment, true, but they also thought they were restoring the traditional rights of Englishmen, rights that could be traced back to Magna Carta and beyond. The American conception of religious liberty, for example, is deeply influenced by the historical experience of the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution, and also by the particular understanding of religion that took hold in a colonial, frontier society. This explains why it differs so much from its cousin on the European continent, the French doctrine of laïcité.

But American culture is changing. Our traditions are not so popular nowadays, including our political traditions; and when we discard our traditions, we can fall for many things, including, apparently, authoritarianism. That, it seems to me, is the upshot of this important paper. The authors identify authoritarianism in our politics with Donald Trump, and it’s easy to recognize Trump’s authoritarian appeal (“I alone can fix it”). But there is authoritarianism on the left, as well, which the authors ignore. American college students increasingly oppose free speech, at least with respect to certain viewpoints, and insist on shutting down speakers with whom they disagree, often with the approval of administrators and faculty who should know better. Not to mention the left’s continuing assaults on religious liberty, including attempts to get nuns to cover contraceptives for their employees and threats to remove the tax-exempt status of religious schools that disapprove of same-sex marriage.

My essay is available here.

“Negotiating Religion” (Guesnet, Laborde, & Lee, eds.)

This month, Routledge releases Negotiating Religion: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives edited by François Guesnet (University College London), Cécile Laborde (University College London), and Lois Lee (University College London). The publisher’s description follows:Negotiating Religion

Negotiating religious diversity, as well as negotiating different forms and degrees of commitment to religious belief and identity, constitutes a major challenge for all societies. Recent developments such as the ‘de-secularisation’ of the world, the transformation and globalisation of religion and the attacks of September 11 have made religious claims and religious actors much more visible in the public sphere. This volume provides multiple perspectives on the processes through which religious communities create or defend their place in a given society, both in history and in our world today.

Offering a critical, cross-disciplinary investigation into processes of negotiating religion and religious diversity, the contributors present new insights on the meaning and substance of negotiation itself. This volume draws on diverse historical, sociological, geographic, legal and political theoretical approaches to take a close look at the religious and political agents involved in such processes as well as the political, social and cultural context in which they take place. Its focus on the European experiences that have shaped not only the history of ‘negotiating religion’ in this region but also around the world, provides new perspectives for critical inquiries into the way in which contemporary societies engage with religion.

This study will be of interest to academics, lawyers and scholars in law and religion, sociology, politics and religious history.

“Religions and Constitutional Transitions in the Muslim Mediterranean” (Ferrari & Toronto, eds.)

In September, Routledge will release “Religions and Constitutional Transitions in the Muslim Mediterranean: The Pluralistic Moment,” edited by Alessandro Ferrari (University of Insubria) and James Toronto (Brigham Young University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book investigates the role of Islam and religious freedom in the constitutional transitions of six North African and Middle Eastern countries, namely Morocco, logo-rt-cAlgeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, and Palestine. In particular, the book, with an interdisciplinary approach, investigates the role of Islam as a political, institutional and societal force. Issues covered include: the role played by Islam as a constitutional reference – a “static force” able to strengthen and legitimize the entire constitutional order; Islam as a political reference used by some political parties in their struggle to acquire political power; and Islam as a specific religion that, like other religions in the area, embodies diverse perspectives on the nature and role of religious freedom in society. The volume provides insight about the political dimension of Islam, as used by political forces, as well as the religious dimension of Islam. This provides a new and wider perspective able to take into account the increasing social pluralism of the South-Mediterranean region. By analyzing three different topics – Islam and constitutionalism, religious political parties, and religious freedom – the book offers a dynamic picture of the role played by Islam and religious freedom in the process of state-building in a globalized age in which human rights and pluralism are crucial dimensions.

Around the Web this Week

Here is a look at some of this week’s law and religion news around the Web:

Human Rights and the Pan-Orthodox Council

Last week, the Eastern Orthodox Church, a communion of 14 autocephalous, national churches with roots in the Byzantine Christian tradition, concluded an historic synod on the island of Crete. Decades in the planning, the Pan-Orthodox Council, known officially as the Holy and Great Council, was meant to gather patriarchs from all 14 churches for deliberation on a series of issues in contemporary church life, including marriage, fasting, the Orthodox “Diaspora,” and relations with non-Orthodox Christians. At the last minute, four national churches, including the largest, the Russian Orthodox Church, declined to attend—a fact which, notwithstanding the protests of the Council’s supporters, seems as a practical matter to undercut the Council’s significance. Nonetheless, the Council is noteworthy for what it had to say on several topics, including the persecution of Mideast Christians and human rights in general. On the latter, the Council’s documents reveal, once again, important differences with the consensus understanding in the West.

First, though, a word about the churches that stayed away. From what I can tell, most (but not all) of these churches demurred in part because of concerns about what the Council might say about relations with other Christians. Ecumenism occasions much dispute within the Eastern Orthodox Church. Some, especially in monastic communities, believe that ecumenism implies that Orthodoxy has abandoned its claim to represent the one true church. Even referring to non-Orthodox Christians as “churches” can cause controversy.

In its declaration, “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World,” the Council adopted (with all respect) a rather lawyerly solution. Yes, the document indicates, there is only one true church, and that is the Eastern Orthodox Church. But “the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other non-Orthodox Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her and believes that her relations with them should be based on the most speedy and objective clarification possible of the whole ecclesiological question.” In other words, the Council accepts that, historically, other Christian communions have been called “churches” (some of them, even, have been called “Orthodox Churches”!) and will work to clarify the situation. It’s an irenic statement. We’ll see how it is received, especially by those within the Orthodox fold who do not think clarification necessary.

Notwithstanding this hedging on the “ecclesiological question,” the Council did go out of its way to decry the persecution of Christians, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, in the Mideast today. In fact, it condemned the persecution of other religious minorities in the Mideast as well. The encyclical issued at the conclusion of the Council states, “The Orthodox Church is particularly concerned about the situation facing Christians, and other persecuted ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East. In particular, she addresses an appeal to governments in that region to protect the Christian populations – Orthodox, Ancient Eastern and other Christians – who have survived in the cradle of Christianity. The indigenous Christian and other populations enjoy the inalienable right to remain in their countries as citizens with equal rights.” The Council refers to two Christian bishops, one Eastern and the other Oriental Orthodox, who were abducted two years in Syria and whose whereabouts are still unknown.

The Council’s official documents also speak about human rights generally, demonstrating, once again, how important the idiom is in contemporary debate. Today, everyone from secular lawyers to church patriarchs declares a commitment to the ideal of “human rights,” based in the concept of “human dignity.” It is the price of admission to polite discussion. But the Council’s documents reveal, once again, how differently people understand those terms. In today’s human rights discourse, people use the same words, but mean very different things.

The Council’s official documents are not always so easy to follow, but, taken together, they stand for these propositions: human dignity derives from the fact of divine creation; human freedom, correctly understood, is the freedom to progress toward spiritual perfection in Christ; and a secular understanding of human rights, which promotes Continue reading

Curtis, “The Production of American Religious Freedom”

In August, New York University Press will release The Production of AmerThe Production of American Religious Freedomican Religious Freedom, by Finbarr Curtis (Georgia Southern University). The publisher’s description follows:

Americans love religious freedom. Few agree, however, about what they mean by either “religion” or “freedom.” Rather than resolve these debates, Finbarr Curtis argues that there is no such thing as religious freedom. Lacking any consistent content, religious freedom is a shifting and malleable rhetoric employed for a variety of purposes. While Americans often think of freedom as the right to be left alone, the free exercise of religion works to produce, challenge, distribute, and regulate different forms of social power.
The book traces shifts in the notion of religious freedom in America from The Second Great Awakening, to the fiction of Louisa May Alcott and the films of D.W. Griffith, through William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes Trial, and up to debates over the Tea Party to illuminate how Protestants have imagined individual and national forms of identity. A chapter on Al Smith considers how the first Catholic presidential nominee of a major party challenged Protestant views about the separation of church and state. Moving later in the twentieth century, the book analyzes Malcolm X’s more sweeping rejection of Christian freedom in favor of radical forms of revolutionary change. The final chapters examine how contemporary controversies over intelligent design and the claims of corporations to exercise religion are at the forefront of efforts to shift regulatory power away from the state and toward private institutions like families, churches, and corporations. The volume argues that religious freedom is produced within competing visions of governance in a self-governing nation.

Hanson, “City of Gods”

In July, the Oxford University Press will release “City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens,” by R. Scott Hanson (University of Pennsylvania).  The publisher’s description follows:

Known locally as the birthplace of American religious freedom, Flushing, Queens, in New York City is now so diverse and densely populated that it has become a 9780823271597microcosm of world religions. City of Gods explores the history of Flushing from the colonial period to the aftermath of September 11, 2001, spanning the origins of Vlissingen and early struggles between Quakers, Dutch authorities, Anglicans, African Americans, Catholics, and Jews to the consolidation of New York City in 1898, two World’s Fairs and postwar commemorations of Flushing’s heritage, and, finally, the Immigration Act of 1965 and the arrival of Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, and Asian and Latino Christians.

A synthesis of archival sources, oral history, and ethnography, City of Gods is a thought-provoking study of religious pluralism. Using Flushing as the backdrop to examine America’s contemporary religious diversity and what it means for the future of the United States, R. Scott Hanson explores both the possibilities and Continue reading

“The Encyclopedia of Law and Religion” (Robbers et al, eds.)

In June, Brill Publishing will release “The Encyclopedia of Law and Religion” edited by Gerhard Robbers (Minister of Justice for Consumer Protection of Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany)), and W. Cole Durham, Jr. (Brigham Young University).  The publisher’s description follows:

In recent years, issues of freedom of religion or belief and state-religion relations have become increasingly important worldwide. While some works have treated 54747such issues regionally, the Encyclopedia of Law and Religion is unique in its breadth, covering all independent nations and jurisdictions as well as the major international organizations, treating the relation between law and religion in its various aspects, including those related to the role of religion in society, the relations between religion and state institutions, freedom of religion, legal aspects of religious traditions, the interaction between law and religion, and other issues at the junction of law, religion, and state.

Offered online and in five print volumes – Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania, Special Territories, International Organizations and Index – this work is a valuable resource for religious and legal scholars alike.

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