Tag Archives: Comparative Law and Religion

Guerres de Noël

US-LIFESTYLE-HOLIDAY-DECORATIONS

I used to think that the annual Christmas Wars were strictly an American thing, like corn dogs and and attorneys’ contingency fees. Only in America, I thought, do people seriously argue about whether to allow Christmas trees in public parks or to permit public school choirs to sing “Silent Night” at holiday concerts. The issues become more and more bizarre. This year, a Maryland school district decided to remove even a reference to “Christmas” in the school calendar–as though the reference amounted to religious oppression and removal would make people forget what holiday comes round every 25th of December.

Our Supreme Court, whose Establishment Clause jurisprudence focuses on factors like the presence of plastic reindeer and talking wishing wells, bears much blame for this state of affairs. But judges in other countries seem eager to replicate our model. Last week, a French administrative court ruled that the town of La Roche-sur-Yon–located, appropriately, in the historically royalist, counter-revolutionary region of the Vendee–must remove a Christmas crèche from its city hall. The court held that the crèche violates the 1905 French Law on the Separation of Church and State, which, according to the court, forbids religious displays like crèches on public property. According to news reports (in French), the court concluded the display was incompatible with the principle of state religious neutrality, or laïcité.

I don’t know enough about French administrative law to evaluate the decision. What I find fascinating, as an outsider, is how closely the French debate tracks the American. The lawsuit seeking removal of the crèche was brought by a secularist group called the “Fédération de la Libre Pensée,” which, I gather, is analogous to American groups like the Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Atheists. The group argues that the crèche “fails to respect the conscience of the citizen” by “imposing” on him a religious display whenever he enters city hall. In response, the town’s supporters evoke cultural traditions more than Christianity. Religious neutrality, they say, does not require abandoning longstanding French customs. What’s next, they ask? Church bells and Christmas lights? They’ve started a popular hashtag campaign, #TouchePasAMaCreche.

Each side has to live with its ironies. Notwithstanding the rhetorical commitment to laïcité, French law allows a great deal of entanglement between church and state–more, in some respects, than we would tolerate in the US. (Guess who owns Notre Dame and all other church buildings that existed as of 1905? Hint: it’s not the Church). On the other hand, the defense of tradition in this case rings somewhat hollow. La Roche-sur-Yon only began displaying the crèche 22 years ago.

The city has vowed to appeal the decision. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, here’s a thought. If France has adopted the Christmas Wars, can Black Friday be far behind?

Photo: Le Figaro

Bouasria, “Sufism and Politics in Morocco”

This January, Routledge Press will release “Sufism and Politics in Morocco: Activism and Dissent” by Abdelilah Bouasria (George Mason University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Presenting a political history and sociology of Moroccan Sufism from colonialism to the modern day, this book studies the Sufi model of Master and Disciple in relation to social and political life, comparing the different eras of acquiescent versus dissident Sufism.

This comparative fieldwork study offers new perspectives on the connection between the monarchy and mystic realms with a specific coverage of the Boutchichi order and Abdessalam Yassine’s Al Adl Wal Ihsane, examining the myth of apolitical Sufism throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Drawing on Michel Foucault and James Scott, this book fuses thinking about the political dimension of Sufism, a “hidden transcript,” involving power struggles, patronage and justice and its esoteric spiritual ethics of care.

Addressing the lacuna in English language literature on the Boutchichi Sufi order in Morocco, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of Islamic Studies, Comparative Politics and the MENA region.

Francavilla, “The Roots of Hindu Jurisprudence: Sources of Dharma and Interpretations of Mimamsa and Dharmashastra”

In January, Oxford University Press will release “The Roots of Hindu Jurisprudence: Sources of Dharma and Interpretations of Mimamsa and Dharmashastra” by Domenico Francavilla (Institute of Canon Law and Comparative Religious Laws, Lugano). The publisher’s description follows:

This book is a detailed, innovative, and comprehensive examination of the sources of dharma, which is among the key concepts in Hindu jurisprudence. The book is also an introduction to the main topics of Hindu legal theory. Underlying the work of authors of various texts of Sanskrit juridical literature, including the dharmashastra, commentaries, andnibandhs, as well as of interpreters of questions concerning dharma, is a theory of the sources of dharma. Understanding the theory requires in-depth examination of the basis of the authority of different sources and of the issues that arise in case of conflict. The book begins with a detailed analysis the concept of dharma itself and the general problems concerning the knowledge of dharma (chapters 1-2). Then it studies the arguments used in the literature to establish the authority of sources (chapters 3-5). It pays special attention to the authority of smrti andsadâcâra, which are the two crucial sources in the practical functioning of the system. It examines the theory of sources of dharma as reconstructed mainly through an analysis of Medhatithi’s commentary on Manu II.6-15 and of thesmrtipada of the Tantravarttika of Kumarila Bhatta, a pivotal text in the Mimamsa philosophical tradition. It concludes with a look at wider issues of legal theory, the acceptance of universal and particular authorities in Hindu jurisprudence, the role of rulers, and the law in practice.

Sarkissian, “The Varieties of Religious Repression”

This February, Oxford University Press will release “The Varieties of Religious Repression: Why Governments Restrict Religion” by Ani Sarkissian (Michigan State University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Varieties of Religious RepressionReligious repression–the non-violent suppression of civil and political rights–is a growing and global phenomenon. Though most often practiced in authoritarian countries, levels of religious repression nevertheless vary across a range of non-democratic regimes, including illiberal democracies and competitive authoritarian states.

In The Varieties of Religious Repression, Ani Sarkissian argues that seemingly benign regulations and restrictions on religion are tools that non-democratic leaders use to repress independent civic activity, effectively maintaining their hold on power. Sarkissian examines the interaction of political competition and the structure of religious divisions in society, presenting a theory of why religious repression varies across non-democratic regimes. She also offers a new way of understanding the commonalties and differences of non-democratic regimes by focusing on the targets of religious repression.

Drawing on quantitative data from more than one hundred authoritarian states, as well as case studies of sixteen countries from around the world, Sarkissian explores the varieties of repression that states impose on religious expression, association, and political activities, describing the obstacles these actions present for democratization, pluralism, and the development of an independent civil society.

“Armenian Christianity Today: Identity Politics and Popular Practice” (Agadjanian, ed.)

Last month, Ashgate Publishing released Armenian Christianity Today: Identity Politics and Popular Practice, edited by Alexander Agadjanian (Russian State University for the Humanities). The publisher’s description follows:

Armenian Christianity Today examines contemporary religious life and the social, political, and cultural functions of religion in the post-Soviet Republic of Armenia and in the Armenian Diaspora worldwide. Scholars from a range of countries and disciplines explore current trends and everyday religiosity, particularly within the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC), and amongst Armenian Catholics, Protestants and vernacular religions.

Themes examined include: Armenian grass-roots religiosity; the changing forms of regular worship and devotion; various types of congregational life; and the dynamics of social composition of both the clergy and lay believers. Exploring through the lens of Armenia, this book considers wider implications of ‘postsecular’ trends in the role of global religion.

 

Call for Papers: State Neutrality, Religion, and Private Enterprises

The Université Catholique de Louvain is soliciting papers for its upcoming conference “State Neutrality, Religion, and Private Enterprises.”  A description of the conference follows:

Debates on the social responsibility of businesses raise the question of the universalist or particularist nature of the ethics upheld by private legal institutions, ethics which may be legitimized or delegitimized by social practices, but also validated and invalidated by constitutional laws or anti-discriminatory legislations. Indeed, if secular States have separated themselves from Churches and cannot be directly involved in religious affairs, it is also because they are secular, and the necessity to protect fundamental rights imposes itself on them so that they become, in turn, involved with the religious sphere, of which they will appoint themselves as interpreters, and that, with respect to the values which are present, often in opposition, in a society. In this thematic session we will question how the sphere of the social responsibility of enterprises confront secular States and their institutions, in particular tribunals, to new ethical and religious resources, thus renewing the question of their interpretation. This reflection on the confrontation of tribunals to particularist ethics in the sphere of private enterprise management will be laid out on the basis of theoretical and empirical research so as to facilitate dialogue between legal constraints and the critical resources of the field of the sociology of religion and social ethics. A re-evaluation of the doctrinal and theological tenets of the evoked ethical referents will permit not only a critical assessment of the data submitted to tribunals in cases of litigation, but will also provide an opening to more efficient modes of interaction, within the boundaries of common law, and of more relevant approaches to mediation, with the contextual data.

Paper proposals should be submitted no later than December 15, 2014 and should be submitted via the online form provided here.  Any questions can be directed to Louis-Léon Christians (Université Catholique de Louvain) at louis-leon.christians@uclouvain.be or to David Koussens (Université de Sherbrooke) at david.koussens@usherbrooke.ca.

Gold, “Provincial Hinduism”

This January, Oxford University Press will release “Provincial Hinduism: Religion and Community in Gwalior City” by Daniel Gold (Cornell University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Provincial HinduismProvincial Hinduism explores intersecting religious worlds in an ordinary Indian city that remains close to its traditional roots, while bearing witness to the impact of globalization. Daniel Gold looks at modern religious life in the central Indian city of Gwalior, drawing attention to the often complex religious sensibilities behind ordinary Hindu practice. Gold describes temples of different types, their legendary histories, and the people who patronize them. He also explores the attraction of Sufi shrines for many Gwalior Hindus. Delicate issues of socioreligious identity are highlighted through an examination of neighbors living together in a locality mixed in religion, caste, and class. Pursuing issues of community and identity, Gold turns to Gwalior’s Maharashtrians and Sindhis, groups with roots in other parts of the subcontinent that have settled in the city for generations. These groups function as internal diasporas, organizing in different ways and making distinctive contributions to local religious life. The book concludes with a focus on new religious institutions invoking nineteenth-century innovators: three religious service organizations inspired by the great Swami Vivekenanda, and two contemporary guru-centered groups tracing lineages to Radhasoami Maharaj of Agra.

Gold offers the first book-length study to analyze religious life in an ordinary, midsized Indian city, and in so doing has created an invaluable resource for scholars of contemporary Indian religion, culture, and society.

“The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law” (Strawn ed.)

In January, Oxford University Press will release “The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law” edited by Brent Strawn (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law (OEBL) provides the most up-to-date and extensive treatment of the Bible and law yet attempted, both updating and expanding the scope of previous scholarship in the field. In comprehensive overviews, scholars at the forefront of biblical studies and law address three foci: biblical law itself–its nature, collections, and genres; the ancient contexts of biblical law, throughout the ancient Mediterranean (ancient Near Eastern, Greco-Roman, and Early Jewish); and the afterlife and influence of biblical law in antiquity and in modern jurisprudence around the world. Essays include treatments of the Book of the Covenant, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, Greek Law, and the Laws of Hammurapi, but also testimony and witness, property, ritual, rhetoric, gender, and sexual legislation.

 

“The Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global Development” (Tomalin, ed.)

This January, Routledge Press will release “The Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global Development” by Emma Tomalin (University of Leeds, UK).  The publisher’s description follows:

Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global DevelopmentThis Handbook provides a cutting-edge survey of the state of research on religions and global development. Part one highlights critical debates that have emerged within research on religions and development, particularly with respect to theoretical, conceptual and methodological considerations, from the perspective of development studies and its associated disciplines. Parts two to six look at different regional and national development contexts and the place of religion within these. These parts integrate and examine the critical debates raised in part one within empirical case studies from a range of religions and regions. Different religions are situated within actual locations and case studies thus allowing a detailed and contextual understanding of their relationships to development to emerge. Part seven examines the links between some important areas within development policy and practice where religion is now being considered, including:

  • Faith-Based Organisations and Development
  • Public Health, Religion and Development
  • Human rights, Religion and Development
  • Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Religion
  • Global Institutions and Religious Engagement in Development
  • Economic Development and Religion
  • Religion, Development and Fragile States
  • Development and Faith-Based Education

Taking a global approach, the Handbook covers Africa, Latin America, South Asia, East/South-East Asia and the Middle East. It is essential reading for students and researchers in development studies and religious studies, and is highly relevant to those working in a range of disciplines, from theology, anthropology, and economics, to geography, international relations, politics, sociology, area studies and development studies.

“Public Funding of Religions in Europe” (Messner ed.)

In January, Ashgate Publishing will release “Public Funding of Religions in Europe” edited by Francis Messner (University of Strasbourg).  The publisher’s description follows:

This collection brings together legal scholars, canonists and political scientists to focus on the issue of public funding in support of religious activities and institutions in Europe. The study begins by revolving around the various mechanisms put in place by the domestic legal systems, as well as those resulting from the European law of human rights and the law of the European Union. It then goes on to look at state support and particular religious groups.

The presentation of European and national law is supplemented by theoretical and interdisciplinary contributions, with the main focus being to bring into discussion and map the relationship between the funding of religions and the economy and to infer from it an attempt at a systematic examination or theorization of such funding.

This collection is essential reading for those studying Law and Religion, with particular focus on the countries of the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey.