Tag Archives: Church and State

Houlihan, “Catholicism and the Great War: Religion and Everyday Life in Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914–1922″

In March, Cambridge University Press will release “Catholicism and the Great War: Religion and Everyday Life in Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914–1922” by Patrick Houlihan (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows:

This transnational comparative history of Catholic everyday religion in Germany and Austria-Hungary during the Great War transforms our understanding of the war’s cultural legacy. Challenging master narratives of secularization and modernism, Houlihan reveals that Catholics from the losing powers had personal and collective religious experiences that revise the decline-and-fall stories of church and state during wartime. Focusing on private theologies and lived religion, Houlihan explores how believers adjusted to industrial warfare. Giving voice to previously marginalized historical actors, including soldiers as well as women and children on the home front, he creates a family history of Catholic religion, supplementing studies of the clergy and bishops. His findings shed new light on the diversity of faith in this period and how specifically Catholic forms of belief and practice enabled people from the losing powers to cope with the war much more successfully than previous cultural histories have led us to believe.

“The Catholic Church in Ireland Today” (Cochran & Waldmeir eds.)

This February, Lexington Books  will release “The Catholic Church in Ireland Today” edited by David Carroll Cochran (Loras College) and John C. Waldmeir (Loras College).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Catholic Church in Ireland TodayFrom a Church that once enjoyed devotional loyalty, political influence, and institutional power unrivaled in Europe, the Catholic Church in Ireland now faces collapse. Devastated by a series of reports on clerical sexual abuse, challenged publicly during several political battles, and painfully aware of plunging Mass attendance, the Irish Church today is confronted with the loss of its institutional legitimacy. This study is the first international and interdisciplinary attempt to consider the scope of the problem, analyze issues that are crucial to the Irish context, and identify signs of both resilience and renewal. In addition to an overview of the current status and future directions of Irish Catholicism, The Catholic Church in Ireland Today examines specific issues such as growing secularism, the changing image of Irish bishops, generational divides, Catholic migrants to Ireland, the abuse crisis and responses in Ireland and the United States, Irish missionaries, the political role of Irish priests, the 2012 Dublin Eucharistic Congress, and contemplative strands in Irish identity. This book identifies the key issues that students of Irish society and others interested in Catholic culture must examine in order to understand the changing roles of religion in the contemporary world.

“The Lively Experiment” (Beneke & Grenda, eds.)

This March, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing will release “The Lively Experiment: Religious Toleration in America from Roger Williams to the Present” edited by Chris Beneke (Bentley College) and Christopher Grenda (CUNY-Brooklyn Community College).  The publisher’s description follows:

Beginning with the legacy of Roger Williams, who in 1633 founded the first colony not restricted to people of one faith, The Lively Experiment chronicles how Americans have continually demolished traditional prejudices while at the same time erecting new walls between belief systems. The chapters gathered here reveal how Americans are sensitively attuned to irony and contradiction, to unanticipated eruptions of bigotry and unheralded acts of decency, and to the disruption caused by new movements and the reassurance supplied by old divisions. The authors examine the way ethnicity, race, and imperialism have been woven into the fabric of interreligious relations and highlight how currents of tolerance and intolerance have rippled in multiple directions. Nearly four hundred years after Roger Williams’ Rhode Island colony, the “lively experiment” of religious tolerance remains a core tenet of the American way of life. This volume honors this boisterous tradition by offering the first comprehensive account of America’s vibrant and often tumultuous history of interreligious relations.

“Faithful Republic” (Preston, Schulman & Zelizer eds.)

This March, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Faithful Republic: Religion and Politics in Modern America” edited by Andrew Preston (Cambridge University), Bruce Schulman (Boston University), and Julian Zelizer (Princeton University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Despite constitutional limitations, the points of contact between religion and politics have deeply affected all aspects of American political development since the founding of the United States. Within partisan politics, federal institutions, and movement activism, religion and politics have rarely ever been truly separate; rather, they are two forms of cultural expression that are continually coevolving and reconfiguring in the face of social change.

Faithful Republic explores the dynamics between religion and politics in the United States from the early twentieth century to the present. Rather than focusing on the traditional question of the separation between church and state, this volume touches on many other aspects of American political history, addressing divorce, civil rights, liberalism and conservatism, domestic policy, and economics. Together, the essays blend church history and lived religion to fashion an innovative kind of political history, demonstrating the pervasiveness of religion throughout American political life.

Clements, “Religion and Public Opinion in Britain”

This March, Palgrave Macmillan Press will release “Religion and Public Opinion in Britain: Continuity and Change” by Ben Clements (University of Leicester).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and Public OpinionBased on extensive analysis of social surveys and opinion polls conducted over recent decades, this book provides a detailed study of the social and political attitudes of religious groups in Britain. It covers a period when religion has declined in significance as a social force in Britain, with falling levels of identity, belief, attendance and of the traditional rites of passage. It looks at group attitudes based on religious affiliation, attendance and other indicators of personal engagement with faith. It details the main areas of attitudinal continuity and change in relation to party support, ideology, abortion, homosexuality and gay rights, and foreign policy. It also examines wider changes in public opinion towards the role of religion in public life, charting the decline in religious authority, a key indicator of secularisation. It provides an important ‘bottom-up’ perspective on the historical and contemporary linkages between religion and politics in Britain.

More on Subway “Viewpoint” Ads

Here’s a follow up to last week’s post about disclaimers on “viewpoint” ads in the New York City subway. In the post, I complained about the unfair treatment the policy affords to ads with religious messages, like the one I described from Marble Collegiate Church.

As Perry Dane explains, though, the disclaimer policy is not directed at religion per se. It applies generally to noncommercial ads that express viewpoints on “political, religious, or moral issues or related matters.” The Metropolitan Transit Authority adopted the policy after losing a 2012 lawsuit over display of anti-Islam ads. A federal district court ruled that, because the subway is a public forum, the MTA could not constitutionally refuse to display the ads. So the MTA decided to add the disclaimer to them and all other “viewpoint” ads, in order to avoid any implication of government endorsement. (The sponsor of the 2012 ads, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, is currently suing the MTA over display of a new anti-Islam ad, which the MTA refuses to display even with the disclaimer, on the ground that the ad may incite violence).

Still, whatever the formal policy, the MTA appears to apply it in a rather arbitrary way. I did a little research over the weekend. From what I could find, the policy has been applied to the AFDI ads; an ad for a Spanish-language Catholic television station; an ad from the Brooklyn Diocese featuring Pope Francis; and the Marble Collegiate ad I wrote about last week. All religious. What about disclaimers on ads that express viewpoints on political, moral, and related matters? Perhaps there are examples, but I couldn’t find any. More importantly, in no time at all I found three such ads without disclaimers.

IMG_20141221_174338_374First, there’s this ad for New York Cares, a volunteer organization that runs an annual coat drive. The ad clearly expresses a moral viewpoint, namely, that many New Yorkers go without winter coats, and the community has a moral obligation to respond. In fact, the ad’s use of the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of America and the refuge it has provided for the world’s “huddled masses,” adds a political dimension. How can we tolerate such poverty in this great republic of ours? To be sure, these messages are non-verbal, but that’s what makes them so powerful. There’s no MTA disclaimer.

08-airbnb-2.w529.h421.2xOr take this ad for Airbnb, a website that helps people rent space in their apartments to strangers for short stays. This ad campaign, which features New Yorkers saying how great Airbnb is for the city, has a political message as well, though you might not spot it if you’re not from New York. The company is trying to get the state legislature to loosen a law that restricts the use of private apartments as hotels. The ads are an obvious attempt to win public support for that effort. Still, notwithstanding the ad’s political implications, there’s no MTA disclaimer.

HillaryFinally, here’s the latest ad campaign for Manhattan Mini Storage. The company is famous for ironic, edgy ads that appeal, I guess, to sophisticated New York subway riders. Here, the political message seems pretty clear. True, this might be just another ironic ad (“Can you believe she’s running again?”) but I don’t think so, given the partisan messages in the company’s past ad campaigns, like ones poking fun at Michelle Bachmann and advocating gay marriage. Yet, again, no MTA disclaimer.

Now, the MTA would presumably defend its choice not to put disclaimers on the Airbnb and Manhattan Mini Storage ads because the policy formally applies only to noncommercial ads. But that seems arbitrary. As Marc DeGirolami pointed out last week, it’s very difficult to disentangle “commercial” from “noncommercial” expression. To my mind, the Hillary ad is the most obviously political, even though its sponsors are only trying to make money. Besides, the New York Cares ad is surely noncommercial–it’s for a volunteer organization.

As I say, perhaps the MTA has put disclaimers on non-religious viewpoint ads and I simply haven’t found them. It’s significant, though, that it’s so easy to find the disclaimer on religious viewpoint ads, and so easy to find political and moral viewpoint ads without the disclaimer. Here’s a thought: perhaps the MTA should stop trying to distinguish among ads and put disclaimers on all of them–commercial, noncommercial, political, moral, and religious. That would solve the appearance-of-endorsement problem, if the problem genuinely exists, and free up MTA resources for doing something important: running the subway.

Subway Ads and Mental Maps

Many thanks to Mark Movsesian and Marc DeGirolami for letting me return with a couple of guest posts.

I’ve been intrigued by some recent posts on this blog and how they confirm my long-held view that the normative decisions we make with respect to the law’s treatment of religion are deeply intermeshed with cognitive choices we make — how we “see” and understand religion.  Religious phenomena don’t fit easily or self-evidently into the mental maps by which we divide the pieces of the secular world.  All we can do is approximate, and those approximations matter.

subway1Let’s begin with Mark’s fascinating and wonderfully observant recent post about an ad for the Marble Collegiate Church that he recently saw in a New York City subway.  The ad itself was unremarkable, touting Marble Collegiate as “Church the way you always hoped it could be.”  (Marble Collegiate itself is more remarkable, founded in 1628 as a Dutch Reformed congregation and serving in the 20th century as Norman Vincent Peale’s pulpit for some 50 years.)  But the ad included a prominent disclaimer form the MTA (the local transit agency) taking up the bottom third of its precious space: “This is a paid advertisement sponsored by Marble Collegiate Church.  The display of this advertisement does not imply MTA’s endorsement of any views expressed.”  What gives? Continue reading

Disapproving Religion in the NYC Subway

Here’s a post about two advertisements I happened to see while riding the New York City subway this past weekend. The ads reveal much about the subtle disparagement churches and other religious organizations sometimes experience from government agencies in the Big Apple.

subwayTake a look at the photo on the left. It shows an ad for Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. As far as I can tell from its website, Marble is a mainline, Protestant congregation, committed to progressive causes like diversity and same-sex marriage. Marble, the ad proclaims, is “church the way you always hoped it would be.”

Pay particular attention to the bottom of the ad, which contains a disclaimer added by the MTA, the government agency that runs the subway. The disclaimer is in bold type and takes up about 25% of the ad space. It is unsightly, in a different font and format from the rest of the ad, and definitely distracts the reader. It says: “This is a paid advertisement sponsored by Marble Collegiate Church. The display of this advertisement does not imply MTA’s endorsement of any views expressed.”

This is very odd. True, the Supreme Court’s “endorsement test” provides that government may not take actions a reasonable observer could understand, in the circumstances, as an endorsement of religion. (This explains why local governments are so careful about Christmas decorations on public property). The MTA presumably insisted on the disclaimer to make clear to subway riders that, by posting Marble’s ad, it did not endorse the church’s underlying religious message.

But the endorsement test does not require a disclaimer here. No reasonable observer could think the MTA had endorsed Marble’s message by posting its ad. There are ads in subway cars for a variety of businesses and nonprofit organizations. Nobody thinks the MTA vouches for the truth of those ads, or even the good faith of the sponsors. Will cosmetic surgery “change your life?” Will Foursquare “lead you to places you’ll love?” Who knows? But the MTA doesn’t think it necessary to attach disclaimers. No one would expect it to do so.

For example, here’s an ad my brother pointed out to me, for a company boozecalled delivery.com. The ad says the company will deliver beer, wine and liquor on demand, thereby allowing customers to “Booze Wisely.” There’s no MTA disclaimer in this ad. But why not? If reasonable people could think the MTA had endorsed Christianity by posting Marble’s ad, why couldn’t they think the MTA had endorsed drinking by posting delivery.com’s? If anything, the danger of misunderstanding is higher. The delivery.com ad offers a 30% discount to people who include the word “SUBWAY” with their orders. Marble didn’t trade on the name “subway” or offer special treatment for straphangers.

Now, supporters of the MTA’s disclaimer policy might argue there’s no real harm here. The disclaimer merely reminds people of an important constitutional principle, namely, that civil government does not take positions on the truth of religious propositions–like whether Marble really is, as its ad claims, what people would hope from a church. At worst, the disclaimer is a bit unnecessary. What’s the cause for complaint?

It’s this: Requiring church ads–and only church ads–to include disclaimers is a kind of disparagement that places churches at an unfair disadvantage in the marketplace of ideas. The inescapable implication is that there is something uniquely impolite and dangerous about religion–more than doubtful cosmetic treatments, consumer fantasies, and boozing it up at home–and that government must keep its distance. The MTA’s policy doesn’t suggest state neutrality respecting religion, but disapproval. For the record, the endorsement test prohibits that as well.

UPDATE: Perry Dane points me to the MTA policy, which actually extends to ads with “political” and “moral” content as well as “religious.” I’m surprised, because I’ve seen plenty of ads with political and moral messages that don’t carry disclaimers, but maybe the MTA just hasn’t gotten around to labeling everything. Still, the differential impact on religious messages has implications under the endorsement test.

Greengrass, “Christendom Destroyed”

Last month, Penguin released Christendom Destroyed: Europe 1517-1648, by 9780670024568Mhistorian Mark Greengrass (University of Sheffield (Emeritus)). The publisher’s description follows:

From peasants to princes, no one was untouched by the spiritual and intellectual upheaval of the sixteenth century. Martin Luther’s challenge to church authority forced Christians to examine their beliefs in ways that shook the foundations of their religion. The subsequent divisions, fed by dynastic rivalries and military changes, fundamentally altered the relations between ruler and ruled. Geographical and scientific discoveries challenged the unity of Christendom as a belief community. Europe, with all its divisions, emerged instead as a geographical projection. Chronicling these dramatic changes, Thomas More, Shakespeare, Montaigne, and Cervantes created works that continue to resonate with us.

Spanning the years 1517 to 1648, Christendom Destroyed is Mark Greengrass’s magnum opus: a rich tapestry that fosters a deeper understanding of Europe’s identity today.