On Tuesday, February 16, St. John’s Law and Religion Colloquium welcomed Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson. Professor Wilson, who was instrumental in bringing about the so-called “Utah compromise,” gave a very interesting talk about proposals from various perspectives to privatize marriage. The paper, “Getting Government out of marriage” Post Obergefell: The Ill-Considered Consequences of Transforming the State’s Relationship to Marriage,” argued that that these proposals are unwise as a policy matter for a variety of reasons.
This February, the University of North Carolina Press will publish a paperback edition of Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law by Fay Botham (visiting assistant professor at Hobart and William and Smith Colleges). The publisher’s description follows.
In this fascinating cultural history of interracial marriage and its legal regulation in the United States, Fay Botham argues that religion–specifically, Protestant and Catholic beliefs about marriage and race–had a significant effect on legal decisions concerning miscegenation and marriage in the century following the Civil War. She contends that the white southern Protestant notion that God “dispersed” the races and the American Catholic emphasis on human unity and common origins point to ways that religion influenced the course of litigation and illuminate the religious bases for Christian racist and antiracist movements.
This December, Brandeis University Press will publish Marriage and Divorce in the Jewish State: Israel’s Civil War by Susan M. Weiss (Center for Women’s Justice) and Netty C. Gross-Horowitz (Jerusalem Report). The publisher’s description follows.
A comprehensive look at how rabbinical courts control Israeli marriage and divorce
Israel currently has two recognized systems of law operating side by side: civil and religious. Israeli religious courts possess exclusive rights to conduct and terminate marriages. There is no civil marriage or divorce in Israel, irrespective of one’s religious inclinations. All Muslims must marry and divorce in accordance with shariya laws, all Catholics in accordance with canon law, and all Jews in accordance with Torah law (halakha). The interpretation and implementation of Torah law is in the hands of the Orthodox religious establishment, the only stream of Judaism that enjoys legal recognition in Israel. These religious authorities strenuously oppose any changes to this so-called “status quo” arrangement between religious and secular. In fact, religious courts in Israel are currently pressing for expanded jurisdiction beyond personal status, stressing their importance to Israel’s growing religious community.
This book shows how religious courts, based on centuries-old patriarchal law, undermine the full civil and human rights of Jewish women in Israel. Making a broad argument for civil marriage and divorce in Israel, the authors also emphasize that religious marriages and divorces, when they do occur, must benefit from legislation that makes divorce easier to obtain. Using this issue as their focal point, they speak to a larger question: Is Israel a democracy or a theocracy?