In December, Oxford University Press will release “Storming Zion: Government Raids on Religious Communities” by Stuart A. Wright (Lamar University) and Susan J. Palmer (Concordia University). The publisher’s description follows:
While scholars, media, and the public may be aware of a few extraordinary government raids on religious communities, such as the U.S. federal raid on the Branch Davidians in 1993, very few people are aware of the scope and frequency with which these raids occur. Following the Texas state raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints in 2008, authors Stuart Wright and Susan Palmer decided to study these raids in the aggregate–rather than as individual cases–by collecting data on raids that have taken place over the last six decades. They did this both to establish for the first time an archive of raided groups, and to determine if any patterns could be identified. Even they were surprised at their findings; there were far more raids than expected, and the vast majority of them had occurred since 1990, reflecting a sharp, almost exponential increase. What could account for this sudden and dramatic increase in state control of minority religions?
In Storming Zion, Wright and Palmer argue that the increased use of these high-risk and extreme types of enforcement corresponds to expanded organization and initiatives by opponents of unconventional religions. Anti-cult organizations provide strategic “frames” that define potential conflicts or problems in a given community as inherently dangerous, and construct narratives that draw on stereotypes of child and sexual abuse, brainwashing, and even mass suicide. The targeted group is made to appear more dangerous than it is, resulting in an overreaction by authorities. Wright and Palmer explore the implications of heightened state repression and control of minority religions in an increasingly multicultural, globalized world. At a time of rapidly shifting demographics within Western societies this book cautions against state control of marginalized groups and offers insight about why the responses to these groups is often so reactionary.
This May, Brill Academic Publishing will release “Religion as a Category of Governance and Sovereignty” edited by Trevor Stack (University of Aberdeen), Naomi Goldenberg (University of Ottawa), and Timothy Fitzgerald (University of Stirling). The publisher’s description follows:
Religious-secular distinctions have been crucial to the way in which modern governments have rationalised their governance and marked out their sovereignty – as crucial as the territorial boundaries that they have drawn around nations. The authors of this volume provide a multi-dimensional picture of how the category of religion has served the ends of modern government. They draw on perspectives from history, anthropology, moral philosophy, theology and religious studies, as well as empirical analysis of India, Japan, Mexico, the United States, Israel-Palestine, France and the United Kingdom.
In November, Routledge Publishing will release “Religion, Violence and Cities” edited by Liam O’Dowd (Queen’s University Belfast) and Martina McKnight (Queen’s University Belfast). The publisher’s description follows:
In exploring the connections between religion, violence and cities, the book probes the extent to which religion moderates or exacerbates violence in an increasingly urbanised world. Originating in a five year research project, Conflict in Cities and the Contested State, concerned with Belfast, Jerusalem and other ethno-nationally divided cities, this volume widens the geographical focus to include diverse cities from the Balkans, the Middle East, Nigeria and Japan. In addressing the understudied triangular relationships between religion, violence and cities, contributors stress the multiple forms taken by religion and violence while challenging the compartmentalisation of two highly topical debates – links between religion and violence on the one hand, and the proliferation of violent urban conflicts on the other hand. Their research demonstrates why cities have become so important in conflicts driven by state-building, fundamentalism, religious nationalism, and ethno-religious division and illuminates the conditions under which urban environments can fuel violent conflicts while simultaneously providing opportunities for managing or transforming them.
Here’s some local law-and-religion news from around CLR headquarters. Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY), who represents the congressional district adjacent to St. John’s, is calling for federal funds for houses of worship damaged in Hurricane Sandy last fall. Under present law, houses of worship are not eligible for FEMA assistance, presumably because of Establishment Clause concerns. Meng says she will attempt to amend pending federal disaster legislation to allow FEMA to make grants to houses of worship. She points out that “many churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are ‘pillars of their communities’ that provide essential services – such as employment, child care and food pantries – to local residents.”
In February, Palgrave MacMillan Publishing will publish Ex-Combatants, Religion, and Peace in Northern Ireland: The Role of Religion in Transitional Justice by John Brewer (University of Aberdeen, U.K.), David Mitchell, and Gerard Leavey. The publisher’s description follows.
Much has been written about the influence of religion on the Northern Ireland conflict and the part played by ex-combatants in the peace process. Yet we know very little about the religious outlook of ex-combatants themselves. Are they personally devout? Is religion important to their political identity? Did faith play a role in their decision to take up arms, or lay them down? And now that their war is over, does religion help them cope with the past?
Based on original interviews with ex-combatants from across the political and religious divide, this book addresses these questions, shedding new light on the interplay of religion, identity and violence in Ireland. It also shows how the case of Northern Ireland illuminates the current international debate around religion and peacemaking. Arguing that advocates of religious interventions in transitional justice often naively exaggerate its influence, a theoretical model for understanding the role of religion in transitional justice is proposed.