Thursday, May 30, 2013
An intriguing -- and, perhaps, unsettling -- story from Australia:
An Australian judge rejected a ruling by a Jewish religious court ordering an Australian man to pay an Israeli businessman for the apparent sale of shares in a company. . . In 2010, a panel of three rabbinical judges ordered Amzalak to pay more than $300,000 for the sale of shares to Shlomo Thaler, an Israeli. Amzalak, however, did not make the payments, and the Jewish court issued a siruv that effectively excommunicated him from the community. . . .
Amzalak complained that the Jewish judges were biased. [The court] agreed, concluding that the “arbitration was not conducted impartially."
Over at the Catholic Moral Theology blog (which is excellent), Fordham theologian Charlie Camosy has a post up called "Is Disagreement Between Peter Singer and Catholic Teaching on Abortion 'Narrow'? -- a Response to Critics." The post is a response to concerns expressed by a number of reviewers of his recent book, Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization. We've talked about Charlie's thesis -- i.e., that there are some important similarities between Singer's ethical commitments and Christian teachings (for example, that we are obligated to take seriously and to try to reduce others' suffering) -- here at MOJ often. Here's a bit from the post:
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
I've posted an article with that title on SSRN, here (subtitled "Reflections on thr HHS Mandate"). As some of you know, I think that one of the most severe threats to religious freedom today--especially the freedom of religious organizations--is the prospect of it becoming a value of which political progressives are skeptical in principle, and which is associated only with conservatives. I therefore think it's vital at this juncture to make arguments for religious freedom that aim to reach people in the center and center-left. This piece, written for an excellent roundtable on "Freedom of the Church" sponsored by the University of San Diego Law School, is a first journal-article effort at doing so. I don't underestimate the depth of tension between a wide scope of freedom for religious organizations and certain features of political progressivism, but I also think it's crucial to appeal to as many common grounds as possible--and I believe there are important ones--as part of the overall case for religious freedom. (The project also has a personal element for me, as some will know, since I have a fundamental commitment to religious freedom and also myself in the center-left on a lot of issues and principles.) Abstract:
The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate to cover contraception is the latest in a series of disputes that have made conflicts between politically progressive laws and traditionalist religious beliefs a pervasive feature of the American religious-freedom landscape. This article examines the foundations of the conflict and argues that progressives should support significant protections for faith-based service organizations such as social services and schools. There are sharp ironies when progressives exclude faith-based service organizations from religious-freedom protection, as the HHS mandate originally did. Service to others lies at the core of religious exercise; progressives more than anyone should affirm this; and accommodating such organizations meaningfully both preserves civil liberty and recognizes the overall contributions they make to progressive social goals, such as assisting the needy, even if they conflict with progressive positions on some deeply-felt issues. On the other side, traditionalists have sometimes failed to respect others' liberties, and that has hampered their ability to claim protection from government imposition as a matter of reciprocity, which would otherwise be a strong argument.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
105 years ago, Edith Wharton travelled France by car. In her "Motor Flight Through France," she reflects on the Amiens Cathedral and the other great Gothic cathedrals of France:
[S]o strongly does the contemplation of the great cathedrals fortify the conviction that their chief value, to this later age, is not so much aesthetic as moral. ... Yes, reverance is the most precious emotion that such a building inspires: reverance for the accumulated experiences of the past, readiness to puzzle out their meaning, unwillingless to disturb rashly results so powerfully willed, so laboriously arrived at - the desire, in short, to keep intact as many links as possible between yesterday and to-morrow, to lose, in the ardour of the new experiment, the least that may be of the long rich heritage of human existence. This, at any rate, might seem to be the cathedral's word to the traveller from a land which has which has undertaken to get on without the past, or to regard it only as a "feature" of aeshetic interest, a sight to which one travels rather than a light by which one lives.
Friday, May 24, 2013
Berg on Schwartzman: Why Secular-Purpose Limits Should Be Narrow, and "Why Religion Is Special (Enough)"
Micah Schwartzman (UVA) recently published an article in the University of Chicago Law Review entitled "What If Religion Is Not Special?" I have a fairly good-sized response out in the Law Review's online Dialogue feature. Two key claims of Micah's article were that (1) you can't support distinctive accommodations for religious freedom unless you also support meaningful distinctive limits on religion serving as the rationale/purpose for laws and (2) ultimately there is no good reason for treating religion differently from deeply held, comprehensive nonreligious moral beliefs. My response, "Secular Purpose, Accommodations, and Why Religion is Special Enough," makes a broad criticism of claim #1 and a narrower criticism of claim #2. Abstract:
This article is a response to Micah Schwartzman's What If Religion Is Not Special? (U. Chi. L. Rev. (2012)). Schwartzman argues that existing approaches to the First Amendment's Religion Clauses are either (1) internally inconsistent because they because they treat religion as special for some purposes but not others or (2) unfair to both religion and nonreligion because they wrongly treat religion as different from deep or comprehensive nonreligious moral theories. He ultimately concludes that no existing theory is satisfactory and suggests expanding the clauses' reach to encompass comprehensive nonreligious moral views as well--which means that such views, like religious views, should be exempted from burdensome laws and should also be restricted in serving as the basis for legislation. Schwartzman argues that we are driven inexorably to this sort of general Rawlsian limitation on comprehensive theories as grounds for laws.
I argue that despite the virtues of his analysis, Schwartzman overstates two of his main conclusions. First, contrary to his charges of inconsistency, a theory may coherently treat religion as special for some purposes and not others. In particular, it is perfectly consistent to support religious accommodations while concluding that any constitutional restrictions on religion as a grounding for secular laws should be minimal, perhaps nonexistent. Second, the charge that it is unfairn to treat religion and nonreligion differently is also overstated. Religion has distinguishing features that justify treating it distinctively. We can extend such treatment to systems that share the same features but have not traditionally been called religious, but the extension should be limited—more limited than Professor Schwartzman proposes.
These online commentary features at major law reviews are a good way to allow academic commentary that is longer and more detailed than a blog post but still reasonably current.