Tag Archives: Law and Religion

Smith, “Religious Persecution and Political Order in the United States”

In October, Cambridge University Press will release “Religious Persecution and Political Order in the United States,” by David T. Smith (University of Sydney). The publisher’s description follows:

Religious freedom is a foundational value of the United States, but not all religious minorities have been shielded from religious persecution in America. This book examines why the state has acted to protect some religious minorities while allowing others to be persecuted or actively persecuting them. It details the persecution experiences of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, Jews, the Nation of Islam, and orthodox Muslims in America, developing a theory for why the state intervened to protect some but not others. The book argues that the state will persecute religious minorities if state actors consider them a threat to political order, but they will protect religious minorities if they believe persecution is a greater threat to political order. From the beginning of the republic to after 9/11, religious freedom in America has depended on the state’s perception of political threats.

Kleidosty, “The Concert of Civilizations”

In July, Ashgate released “The Concert of Civilizations: The Common Roots of Western and Islamic Constitutionalism,” by Jeremy Kleidosty (University of Jyväskylä, Finland).  The publisher’s description follows:

Are Western and Islamic political and constitutional ideas truly predestined for civilizational clash? In order to understand this controversy The Concert of Civilizations begins by deriving and redefining a definition of constitutionalism that is suitable for comparative, cross-cultural analysis. The rule of law, reflection of national character, and the clear delineation and limitation of governmental power are used as lenses through which thinkers like Cicero, Montesquieu, and the authors of The Federalist Papers can be read alongside al-Farabi, ibn Khaldun, and the Ottoman Tanzimat decrees. Bridging the civilizational divide is a chapter comparing the Magna Carta with Muhammad’sConstitution of Medina, as both documents can be seen as foundational within their traditions. For the first time in political theory, this text also provides a sustained, detailed analysis of Khayr al-Din al-Tunisi’s book The Surest Path, which explains his fusion of Muslim and Western ideas in his writing of Tunisia’s first modern constitution, which is also the first constitution for a majority-Muslim state. Finally, the book discusses the Arab Spring through a brief overview of the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, and offers some early thoughts about Tunisia’s uniquely successful revolution.

Schaposchnik, “The Lima Inquisition”

In October, the University of Wisconsin Press will release “The Lima Inquisition:
The Plight of Crypto-Jews in Seventeenth-Century Peru,” by Ana E. Schaposchnik (DePaul University).  The publisher’s description follows: 

The Holy Office of the Inquisition (a royal tribunal that addressed issues of heresy and offenses to morality) was established in Peru in 1570 and operated there until 1820. In this book, Ana E. Schaposchnik provides a deeply researched history of the Inquisition’s Lima Tribunal, focusing in particular on the cases of persons put under trial for crypto-Judaism in Lima during the 1600s.

Delving deeply into the records of the Lima Tribunal, Schaposchnik brings to light the experiences and perspectives of the prisoners in the cells and torture chambers, as well as the regulations and institutional procedures of the inquisitors. She looks closely at how the lives of the accused—and in some cases the circumstances of their deaths—were shaped by actions of the Inquisition on both sides of the Atlantic. She explores the prisoners’ lives before and after their incarcerations and reveals the variety and character of prisoners’ religiosity, as portrayed in the Inquisition’s own sources. She also uncovers individual and collective strategies of the prisoners and their supporters to stall trials, confuse tribunal members, and attempt to ameliorate or at least delay the most extreme effects of the trial of faith.

The Lima Inquisition also includes a detailed analysis of the 1639 Auto General de Fe ceremony of public penance and execution, tracing the agendas of individual inquisitors, the transition that occurred when punishment and surveillance were brought out of hidden dungeons and into public spaces, and the exposure of the condemned and their plight to an avid and awestricken audience. Schaposchnik contends that the Lima Tribunal’s goal, more than volume or frequency in punishing heretics, was to discipline and shape culture in Peru.

Cejka & Koran, “Rabbis of our Time: Authorities of Judaism in the Religious and Political Ferment of Modern Times”

In October, Routledge will release “Rabbis of our Time: Authorities of Judaism in the Religious and Political Ferment of Modern Times” by Marek Cejka (Institute of International Relations, Prague) and Roman Koran (Hebrew translator and Judaism researcher). The publisher’s description follows:

The term ‘rabbi’ predominantly denotes Jewish men qualified to interpret the Torah and apply halacha, or those entrusted with the religious leadership of a Jewish community. However, the role of the rabbi has been understood differently across the Jewish world. While in Israel they control legally powerful rabbinical courts and major religious political parties, in the Jewish communities of the Diaspora this role is often limited by legal regulations of individual countries. However, the significance of past and present rabbis and their religious and political influence endures across the world.

Rabbis of Our Time provides a comprehensive overview of the most influential rabbinical authorities of Judaism in the 20th and 21st Century. Through focussing on the most theologically influential rabbis of the contemporary era and examining their political impact, it opens a broader discussion of the relationship between Judaism and politics. It looks at the various centres of current Judaism and Jewish thinking, especially the State of Israel and the USA, as well as locating rabbis in various time periods. Through interviews and extracts from religious texts and books authored by rabbis, readers will discover more about a range of rabbis, from those before the formation of Israel to the most famous Chief Rabbis of Israel, as well as those who did not reach the highest state religious functions, but influenced the relation between Judaism and Israel by other means. The rabbis selected represent all major contemporary streams of Judaism, from ultra-Orthodox/Haredi to Reform and Liberal currents, and together create a broader picture of the scope of contemporary Jewish thinking in a theological and political context.

“The Polygamy Question” (eds. Bennion and Joffe)

In November, the Utah State University Press will release “The Polygamy Question,” edited by Janet Bennion (Lyndon State College) and Lisa Fishbayn Joffe (Brandeis University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The practice of polygamy occupies a unique place in North American history and has had a profound effect on its legal and social development. The Polygamy Question explores the ways in which indigenous and immigrant polygamy have shaped the lives of individuals, communities, and the broader societies that have engaged with it. The book also considers how polygamy challenges our traditional notions of gender and marriage and how it might be effectively regulated to comport with contemporary notions of justice.

The contributors to this volume—scholars of law, anthropology, sociology, political science, economics, and religious studies—disentangle diverse forms of polygamy and polyamory practiced among a range of religious and national backgrounds including Mormon and Muslim. They chart the harms and benefits these models have on practicing women, children, and men, whether they are independent families or members of coherent religious groups. Contributors also address the complexities of evaluating this form of marriage and the ethical and legal issues surrounding regulation of the practice, including the pros and cons of legalization.

Plural marriage is the next frontier of North American marriage law and possibly the next civil rights battlefield. Students and scholars interested in polygamy, marriage, and family will find much of interest in The Polygamy Question.

Beckwith, “Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith”

In October, Cambridge University Press will release “Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith” by Francis J. Beckwith (Baylor University). The publisher’s description follows:

Taking Rites Seriously is about how religious beliefs and religious believers are assessed by judges and legal scholars and are sometimes mischaracterized and misunderstood by those who are critical of the influence of religion in politics or in the formation of law. Covering three general topics – reason and motive, dignity and personhood, nature and sex – philosopher and legal theorist Francis J. Beckwith carefully addresses several contentious legal and cultural questions over which religious and non-religious citizens often disagree: the rationality of religious belief, religiously motivated legislation, human dignity in bioethics, abortion and embryonic stem cell research, reproductive rights and religious liberty, evolutionary theory, and the nature of marriage. In the process, he responds to some well-known critics of public faith – including Brian Leiter, Steven Pinker, Suzanna Sherry, Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, and Richard Dawkins – as well as to some religiously conservative critics of secularism such as the advocates for intelligent design.

Bittker et al., “Religion and the State in American Law”

In October, Cambridge University Press will release “Religion and the State in American Law” by Boris I. Bittker (Yale Law School), Scott Idleman (Marquette University), Frank S. Ravitch (Michigan State University). The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and the State in American Law provides a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of religion and government in the United States, from historical origins to modern laws and rulings. In addition to extensive coverage of the religion clauses of the First Amendment, it addresses many statutory, regulatory, and common-law developments at both the federal and state levels. Topics include the history of church-state relations and religious liberty, religion in the classroom, and expressions of religion in government. This book also covers the role of religion in specific areas of law such as contracts, taxation, employment, land use regulation, torts, criminal law, and domestic relations as well as in specialized contexts such as prisons and the military. Accessible to the general as well as the professional reader, this book will be of use to scholars, judges, practicing lawyers, and the media.

Melchert, “Hadith, Piety, and Law”

In October, the University of Exeter Press will release “Hadith, Piety, and Law: Selected Studies,” by Christopher Melchert (Oxford University). The publisher’s description follows:

The publication of The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law, Ninth-Tenth Centuries C.E., first as a University of Pennsylvania doctoral dissertation in 1992, and subsequently as a monograph in 1997 (Studies in Islamic Law and Society, Brill), established Christopher Melchert as a pre-eminent scholar of the history of Islamic law and institutions. Through close readings of works on fiqh, meticulous unpacking of data in biographical dictionaries, and careful attention to curricular, pious, pedagogical, and scholarly practices, Melchert has subsequently illuminated the processes and procedures that undergirded the development of Islamic movements and institutions in the formative period of Islam.

The present volume brings together sixteen of his articles, including those considered his most important as well as ones that are difficult to access. Originally published between 1997 and 2014, they are arranged chronologically under three rubrics – hadith, piety and law. The material is presented in a new format, updated by Melchert where appropriate, and indexed. The appearance of these articles together in a single volume makes this book a highly significant and welcome contribution to the field of classical Islamic Studies.

Cook, “Understanding Jihad”

In September, the University of California Press will release “Understanding Jihad,” by David Cook (Rice University). The publisher’s description follows:

First published in 2005, Understanding Jihad unravels the tangled historical, intellectual, and political meanings of jihad within the context of Islamic life. In this revised and expanded second edition, author David Cook has included new material in light of pivotal developments such as the extraordinary events of the Arab Spring, the death of Usama b. Ladin, and the rise of new Islamic factions such as ISIS.

Jihad is one of the most loaded and misunderstood terms in the news today. Contrary to popular understanding, the term does not mean “holy war.” Nor does it simply refer to an inner spiritual struggle. This judiciously balanced, accessibly written, and highly relevant book looks closely at a range of sources from sacred Islamic texts to modern interpretations, opening a critically important perspective on the role of Islam in the contemporary world.

David Cook cites from scriptural, legal, and newly translated texts to give readers insight into the often ambiguous information that is used to construct Islamic doctrine. He sheds light on legal developments relevant to fighting and warfare and places the internal, spiritual jihad within the larger context of Islamic religion. He describes some of the conflicts that occur in radical groups and shows how the more mainstream supporters of these groups have come to understand and justify violence. He has also included a special appendix of relevant documents including materials related to the September 11 attacks and published manifestos issued by Usama b. Ladin and Palestinian suicide-martyrs.

“Writing Religion” (Ramey, ed.)

In August, the University of Alabama Press will release “Writing Religion: The Case for the Critical Study of Religion,” edited by Steven W. Ramey (University of Alabama). The publisher’s description follows:

In 2002, the University of Alabama’s Department of Religious Studies established the annual Aronov Lecture Series to showcase the works of nationally recognized scholars of religion capable of reflecting on issues of wide relevance to scholars from across the humanities and social sciences. Writing Religion: The Case for the Critical Study of Religions is an edited collection of essays that highlights critical contributions from the first ten Aronov lecturers.

Section one of the volume, “Writing Discourses,” features essays by Jonathan Z. Smith, Bruce Lincoln, and Ann Pellegrini that illustrate how critical study enables the analysis of discourses in society and history. Section two, “Riting Social Formations,” includes pieces by Arjun Appadurai, Judith Plaskow, and Nathan Katz that reference both the power of rites to construct society and the act of riting as a form of disciplining that both prescribes and proscribes. The writings of Tomoko Masuzawa, Amy-Jill Levine, Aaron W. Hughes, and Martin S. Jaffee appear in section three, “Righting the Discipline.” They emphasize the correction of movements within the academic study of religion.

Steven W. Ramey frames the collection with a thoughtful introduction that explores the genesis, development, and diversity of critical analysis in the study of religion. An afterword by Russell McCutcheon reflects on the critical study of religion at the University of Alabama and rounds out this superb collection.

The mission of the Department of Religious Studies is to “avoid every tendency toward confusing the study of religion with the practice of religion.” Instruction about—rather than in—religion is foundational to the department’s larger goal of producing knowledge of the world and its many practices and systems of beliefs. Infused with this spirit, these fascinating essays, which read like good conversations with learned friends, offer significant examples of each scholar’s work. Writing Religion will be of value to graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and scholars interested in the study of religion from a critical perspective.