Around the Web This Week

Some interesting law and religion news stories from around the web this week:

“Funding Religious Heritage” (Fornerod, ed.)

This May, Ashgate Publishing will release “Funding Religious Heritage” edited by Anne Fornerod (University of Strasbourg).  The publisher’s description follows:

PPCspine22mmThis collection brings together a group of highly respected law and religion scholars to explore the funding of religious heritage in the context of state support for religions. The importance of this state support is that on the one hand it illustrates the potential tensions between secular and religious values, whilst on the other it constitutes a relevant tool for investigating the question of the legitimacy of such financial support. The funding logically varies according to the national system of state-religion relationships and this is reflected in the range of countries studied, including: Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

The book provides clarity in the assignment of funds to religious heritage, as well as seeking to define the limit of what relates to the exercise of worship and what belongs to cultural policy. It is clear that the main challenge for the future lies not only in managing the dual purpose of religious monuments, but also in re-using these buildings which have lost their original purpose. This collection will appeal to those interested in cultural heritage management, as well as law and religion scholars.

“Dissent on Core Beliefs” (Chambers & Nosco, eds.)

This May, Cambridge University Press will release “Dissent on Core Beliefs: Religious and Secular Perspectives” edited by Simone Chambers (University of Toronto) and Peter Nosco (University of British Columbia).  The publisher’s description follows:

Dissent on Core BeliefsDifference, diversity and disagreement are inevitable features of our ethical, social and political landscape. This collection of new essays investigates the ways that various ethical and religious traditions have dealt with intramural dissent; the volume covers nine separate traditions: Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, liberalism, Marxism, South Asian religions and natural law. Each chapter lays out the distinctive features, history and challenges of intramural dissent within each tradition, enabling readers to identify similarities and differences between traditions. The book concludes with an Afterword by Michael Walzer, offering a synoptic overview of the challenge of intramural dissent and the responses to that challenge. Committed to dialogue across cultures and traditions, the collection begins that dialogue with the common challenges facing all traditions: how to maintain cohesion and core values in the face of pluralism, and how to do this in a way that is consistent with the internal ethical principles of the traditions.

“It is by obeying the judgments of our predecessors that we are empowered to make judgments of our own.”

At perhaps one click removed from law and religion proper, but still deeply relevant, is Joel Alicea’s superb essay on originalism and “the rule of the dead” (from which I have drawn the title quote) in the latest issue of National Affairs. Alicea’s piece is particularly useful on the necessary connection of obedience to the will of the dead and the concept of written law (and the disconnection between the concept of written law and obedience to the will of the living). A bit more:

By obeying the dead, the living can demand obedience. As Judge Frank Easterbrook once remarked, “Decisions of yesterday’s legislatures…are enforced…because affirming the force of old laws is essential if sitting legislatures are to enjoy the power to make new ones.” That is, “[p]eople accept old contracts and old laws because they know that this is the only way to ensure that promises to them are kept.” We, the living, accept the binding force of laws passed before our time so that our laws will be obeyed, both in our own time and beyond.

This dynamic between the living and the dead not only undergirds written law; it is foundational to a proper conception of popular sovereignty under the Constitution. Indeed, it is at the heart of what Whittington has called the dualist conception of democratic theory. Under this framework, “the people” exist in their sovereign capacity only when they engage in higher lawmaking — the making and amending of the Constitution. This lawmaking is of a higher order, as it sets the rules by which all other laws can be made and sets the limits of what those laws can do. At all other times and for all other lawmaking, ordinary politics is the norm, and in such circumstances, the people do not act as the sovereign — though they retain the power to reassert their sovereignty at any moment through the process of constitutional amendment. This is not to deny, of course, that the people remain the ultimate source of authority in a polity during a time of ordinary politics; it is simply to say that they and their representatives are acting under or subordinate to the rules that the people established in their sovereign capacity.

This conception of popular sovereignty stems from the same kinds of considerations that uphold written law. In the same way that the dead-hand argument is hostile to any form of written law, saying that the people act in their sovereign capacity in everyday politics is hostile to a written constitution. A constitution is meant to guide and limit ordinary politics, and if ordinary politics were the domain of the people acting as sovereign, then every statute would be the equivalent of a constitutional amendment, and the idea of a written constitution would become meaningless.

….

These philosophical assumptions underlying written law are the essence of originalism. We must submit to the commands of the dead in order to govern ourselves, and in order to submit, we must understand those commands according to their original meaning. It would be farcical to claim that we are being obedient to a rule if we arrogated to ourselves the power to change the meaning of that rule. It would be tantamount to telling past generations: “We will obey your laws — so long as they mean what we say they mean.” The rejection of the dead-hand argument is therefore not just about defending the validity of written law in general; it is about defending originalism’s core philosophical assumptions.

Similarly, we see that the argument over the dead-hand of the past is about far more than the viability of originalism. At stake is the idea of written law, of popular sovereignty, and of society as an intergenerational partnership between the living and the dead.

Hon. Kenneth Starr to Lecture at Touro on “The First Freedom: Religious Liberty in America”

The Hon. Kenneth Starr, President and Chancellor of Baylor University, will deliver a public lecture titled “The First Freedom: Religious Liberty in America” at Touro Law on Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. in the auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

This event will be live streamed on March 26th at 6 p.m. Watch it here.

For more information, please contact: events@tourolaw.edu.

“Religious Literacy in Policy and Practice” (Dinham & Francis, eds.)

This month, Policy Press at the University of Bristol released “Religious Literacy in Policy and Practice” edited by Adam Dinham (University of London) and Matthew Francis (Lancaster University). The publisher’s description follows:

It has long been assumed that religion is in decline in the West: however it continues to have an important yet contested role in individual lives and in society at large. Furthermore half a century or so in which religion and belief were barely talked about in public has resulted in a pressing lack of religious literacy, leaving many ill-equipped to engage with religion and belief when they encounter them in daily life – in relationships, law, media, the professions, business and politics, among others. This valuable book is the first to bring together theory and policy with analysis and expertise on practices in key areas of the public realm to explore what religious literacy is, why it is needed and what might be done about it. It makes the case for a public realm which is well equipped to engage with the plurality and pervasiveness of religion and belief, whatever the individual’s own stance. It is aimed at academics, policy-makers and practitioners interested in the policy and practice implications of the continuing presence of religion and belief in the public sphere.

“The Transformation of Politicised Religion: From Zealots into Leaders” (Elsenhans et al., eds.)

Last month, Ashgate Publishing released “The Transformation of Politicised Religion: From Zealots into Leaders” edited by Harmut Elsenhans (University of Leipzig, Germany), Rachid Ouaissa (Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany), Sebastian Schwecke (University of Göttingen, Germany), and Mary Ann Tétreault (Trinity University, USA). The publisher’s description follows:

Including contributions from leading scholars from Algeria, France, Germany, India and the United States this book traces the rise and turn to moderation of the New Cultural Identitarian Political Movements, often labelled in the West as fundamentalists. Arguing that culturally based ideologies are often the instruments, rather than the motivating force though which segments of a rising middle strata challenge entrenched elites the expert contributors trace the rise of these movements to changes in their respective countries’ political economy and class structures. This approach explains why, as a result of an ongoing contestation and recreation of bourgeois values, the more powerful of these movements then tend towards moderation. As Western countries realise the need to engage with the more moderate wings of fundamentalist political groups their rationale and aims become of increasing importance and so academics, decision-makers and business people interested in South Asia and the Muslim world will find this an invaluable account.

Bonacina, “The Wahhabis seen through European Eyes (1772-1830)”

This May, Brill Publishing will release “The Wahhabis seen through European Eyes (1772-1830): Deists and Puritans of Islam” by Giovanni Bonacina (University of Urbino).  The publisher’s description follows:

In The Wahhabis seen through European Eyes (1772-1830) Giovanni Bonacina offers an account of the early reactions in Europe to the rise of the Wahhabi movement in Arabia. Commonly pictured nowadays as a form of Muslim fundamentalism, the Wahhabis appeared to many European witnesses as the creators of a deistic revolution with serious political consequences for the Ottoman ancien regime. They were seen either in the light of contemporary events in France, or as Islamic theological reformers in the mould of Calvin, opposing an established church and devotional traditions. These audacious but fascinating attempts to interpret the unknown by way of the better known are illustrated in Bonacina’s book.

Rahnema, “Shi’i Reformation in Iran”

This May, Ashgate Publishing will release “Shi’i Reformation in Iran: The Life and Theology of Shari’at Sangelaji” by Ali Rahnema (American University of Paris).  The publisher’s description follows:

Shi'i ReformationShi ‘ism caught the attention of the world as Iran experienced her revolution in 1979 and was subsequently cast in the mold of a monolithic discourse of radical political Islam. The spokespersons of Shi’i Islam, in or out of power, have not been the sole representatives of the faith. Nonconformist and uncompromising, the Shi‘i jurist and reformist Shari’at Sangelaji (1891–1944) challenged certain popular Shi‘i beliefs and the mainstream clerical establishment, guarding and propagating it. In Shi’i Reformation in Iran, Ali Rahnema offers a fresh understanding of Sangelaji’s reformist discourse from a theological standpoint, and takes readers into the heart of the key religious debates in Iran in the 1940s. Exploring Sangelaji’s life, theological position and disputations, Rahnema demonstrates that far from being change resistant, debates around why and how to reform the faith have long been at the heart of Shi’i Islam.

Drawing on the writings and sermons of Sangelaji, as well as interviews with his son, the book provides a detailed and comprehensive introduction to the reformist’s ideas. As such it offers scholars of religion and Middle Eastern politics alike a penetrating insight into the impact that these ideas have had on Shi’ism—an impact which is still felt today.

Faith or Tradition? A Bolognese Easter Controversy

Here’s an interesting story about an Italian controversy concerning the giving ofGIOSUE-CARDUCCI a blessing at the public Giosuè Carducci Elementary School in Bologna in advance of Easter. Apparently there is an objection by a parent to the blessing that has generated a law suit against the school. In a lovely exemplar of the privatization of religion, the objecting parent opined, “Everything has a place, and the school is not the place for these blessings.” One wonders whether the public square is the place for San Petronio. And in a clear echo of the “endorsement test’s” concern for offended feelings and excluded sensibilities, there is this: “‘Is it fair that everyone has to see this, even if some students are Muslims, Buddhist or atheists?’ asked Adele Orioli, legal adviser to Italy’s Union of Atheists and Rationalistic Agnostics.” There is also some dispute among the school board members about where the blessing should be given, whether in a central garden location or instead in a less central (and probably danker and less sweet smelling) gymnasium. Finally, there is this from the Reverend Raffaele Buono, who oversees religious education in Bologna’s schools:  “It is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of belonging to a tradition.” Must it really be either/or, Reverend Buono?

Welcome, Italy, to issues that have plagued the United States for the last quarter century! You had your first taste with Lautsi, but believe me when I tell you that these will be sources of limitless acrimony and contention for you. We over here are waiting with bated breath to see whether Bologna will be compelled to rip down its statues of San Petronio and house them in privately owned palestre. (parenthetically, Carducci himself (pictured), a late Risorgimento nationalist writer whose poetry I have generally found to be abominably pompous, would almost certainly have held the Christian blessing in the greatest contempt).