Mirror of Justice

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Monday, July 27, 2015

On "Sectarian Schools" Clauses and Religious Neutrality

Congratulations to Tom and St. Thomas's religious liberty clinic on the decision from North Carolina. Tom writes below that "the plaintiffs' problem on the religion question was that there was no North Carolina anti-establishment provision restricting government support of religious schools ("sectarian schools," as other states call them)."

I have a short essay discussing, in part, a recent case from a state with just such a clause--Colorado--whose supreme court rejected a voucher program on the ground that any aid--direct or indirect--would violate the clause. Just a small quibble: I do not think that such clauses are rightly characterized as "anti-establishment provisions." They are something quite different. I use the essay to reflect more broadly about what they are, what purpose they serve and were intended to serve historically, and broader questions that they raise about claims of "religious neutrality" by the state toward matters educational--public or private. 

July 27, 2015 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Friday, July 10, 2015

Three Thoughts on Complicity, Dignity, and Religious Accommodation

I thought to add three quick thoughts to the points in Rick's post below on complicity, dignity harms, and other matters, with which I largely agree (my full response to the points made in the article by Professors Siegel and NeJaime may be found in the article to which Rick kindly links).

First, as to complicity-based claims for religious exemption. The core claim of the paper by Professors Siegel and NeJaime is that the sorts of exemptions requested in Hobby Lobby and several subsequent controversies are "distinctive" in "form and social logic" because of the issue of complicity in the wrongful conduct of others, a feature that was not present in previous religious exemption cases. Professors Siegel and NeJaime do seem at certain places to say that complicity focuses on the wrongful acts of others. But at several other points, they are much more interested in the third party's character than in his conduct. They write, for example, that complicity-based exemption claims are distinctive because they focus on the accomplice's "relationship to the third party," or that such claims are "oriented toward third parties who do not share the claimant’s beliefs about the conduct in question," or that such claims are really about conflicts between the "traditional morality" of the accomplice and the other sort of morality (progressive morality?) of the third party.

This sort of movement from conduct to character is nicely captured in their comments about Thomas v. Review Board. For those that may not remember, Thomas concerned a request for religious accommodation that also was based on an objection dependent on the concept (if not the precise language) of complicity: “Thomas admitted before the referee that he would not object to working for United States Steel or Inland Steel…produc[ing] the raw product necessary for the production of any kind of tank…‘[because I] would not be a direct party to whoever they shipped it to [and] would not be…chargeable in…conscience.” By contrast, working on tank turrets, Thomas believed, would render him a “direct party to”—that is, someone who aided or assisted—those third parties who contributed to the war effort. Professors NeJaime and Siegel purport to distinguish Thomas on the ground that Thomas did not “single out a particular group of citizens as sinning.” 

That's both incorrect and irrelevant. It's incorrect because Thomas did single out those citizens to whom weaponry would be shipped and who would use it in ways to which he objected in conscience. And it's irrelevant because it mistakes the relevant issue as character rather than conduct. Singling out the morality or the character traits of third parties makes no difference, since the conduct, not the character, of the third party is what matters for complicity-based claims. Of course, the conflation of conduct and character is a recognizable though deeply regrettable move in many of the sorts of disputes implicating these issues. But, at least historically, accomplice liability (in criminal law, for example, where it is most at home) focuses on the conduct, not character, of the principal in addition to the state of mind of the accomplice (as Rick notes). And Thomas is hardly the only case in the accommodation canon that looks like this. I list some others in the paper.

Second, on dignitary harms, I'd point out the following interesting language in Justice Kennedy's concurrence in Hobby Lobby: "In our constitutional tradition, freedom means that all persons have the right to believe or strive to believe in a divine creator and a divine law. For those who choose this course, free exercise is essential in preserving their own dignity and in striving for a self-definition shaped by their religious precepts." Liberties conflict in our legal system; do we gain something by noting that dignities conflict as well? Is Kennedy saying that Hobby Lobby could have asserted that the contraception mandate injured its dignity? That seems to be the way he sees its statutory claim. And that injury gives rise to...what? Here the plaintiff was relying on RFRA. Could it have relied on the Due Process Clause? Suppose that in a hypothetical future case (after RFRA is repealed), this sort of dignity claim conflicts with the sort of dignity claim favored by Professors Siegel and NeJaime--a "traditional morality" claim against a "progressive morality" claim. What sort of standard will we use to adjudge such disputes? May one hope against hope that the Supreme Court will forebear from constitutionalizing the true foundations of human nature and identity?

Third, suppose we were to constitutionalize dignitary harm in the way advocated here and elsewhere. And suppose we were to do so after the fashion sometimes advocated by third-party-harm scholars. We could say, for example, that religious accommodations that impose dignitary harms on third parties (substantial, or important, or material, harms, to be sure) violate the Establishment Clause. I wonder what then happens to the Establishment Clause grounds for the ministerial exception. Does the Establishment Clause cannibalize itself? As I say in the paper, I bet Cheryl Perich and many other plaintiffs who are losers in ministerial exception cases suffer quite significant dignitary harms. They are surely judged, stigmatized, demeaned, and injured in all sorts of ways (quite unpleasant ways in Ms. Perich's case). Is that kind of substantial dignitary injury, which could now be protected by the Establishment Clause, a new limit on the scope of the ministerial exception?

July 10, 2015 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Few Notes on the Libertas Conference on Religious Freedom

I am just back from the Libertas Conference at Villanova Law School. It was an extremely edifying period of thought, reflection, and fellowship with a wonderful group of lawyers, political theorists, philosophers, historians, and journalists, including Steve Smith, Damon Linker, Christopher Tollefsen, Elizabeth and David Corey, Tuan Samahon, and Gerald Russello, among many others. Rick Garnett, Zak Calo, and I were fortunate enough to moderate the sessions over a period of three days.

The sessions really broke down into four general categories: (1) genealogical accounts of church and state in modernity (including readings by Brad Gregory and Mark Lilla, as well as by Steve Smith); (2) historical studies of the specifically English and American experience of church and state (including readings by Stuart Banner and Michael McConnell), (3) comments on the projects of cultural Christianity and secularism (John Courtney Murray, Robert Louis Wilken, and Pope Benedict XVI were on the agenda); and (4) diagnoses of and prognoses for religious freedom in the United States (here some of the readings were decidedly inferior as they included some of my recent work, but also much better stuff by Rick Garnett and Paul Horwitz).

The conference was organized by Michael Moreland with his usual grace, generosity, and aplomb. The participants' comments and insights will influence my own thinking and writing for a while, in ways I hope to note by and by. But here's one initial thought having to do with scholarly method. There are of course many different ways to make scholarly contributions in law: argument in the service of changing doctrine, synthesis of a body of law to arrive at a new insight, normative pleas for turns or returns to various positions having assertedly desirable political results, studies of empirical states of affairs, and so on. But my own view--helped along and shaped by the participants at the conference (as well as by posts like this one)--is that we are at the beginning of the flowering of an interesting period of long-view, retrospective, critical diagnostic scholarship in law and religion and constitutional law more broadly. Not everybody will be interested in this sort of approach, of course. Others in the field have different projects and different objectives. But at least for me, this is an invigorating thought.

July 9, 2015 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Friday, June 19, 2015

Pascal's Birthday (and a Summer Series on his Work)

Today is the anniversary of the birthday of the formidable mathematician and thoroughly unsystematic philosopher, Blaise Pascal. For a collection of posts for fun on his work (which I'll try to continue throughout the summer, and which was inspired by Michael's wonderful post on Jansenism's "long tail"), see this, this ("On Legitimacy"), this ("On Intention"), and this ("The Wager").

June 19, 2015 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reed v. Town of Gilbert: Another 9-0 Roberts Court Law and Religion Case

The Supreme Court holds unanimously in Reed v. Town of Gilbert that an Arizona municipality's sign code violates the Speech Clause.

I have a little more here, including a note that, though it isn't a Religion Clauses case and though there were a couple of concurrences in the judgment only in Reed, this case continues the Roberts Court's uniform voting pattern in law and religion-related cases of either 9-0 or 5-4. For more discussion of this question, see this paper.

June 18, 2015 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Monday, June 15, 2015

"Towers of Solid Ivory"

When I first read the last lines of Alasdair MacIntyre's book, After Virtue, I was not quite sure what Professor MacIntyre meant by awaiting another St. Benedict. But I suspected that what he intended was somebody who would have the genius to create a new institution in the way Benedict had. That is, I thought that the reference to Benedict was intended to suggest neither withdrawal from the fields of law and politics nor a kind of spiritual focus on the arts or the theater or poetry, but the possibility of the creation of a new institutional power (or of the renewal of an existing institutional power) one of whose primary functions would be wise and temperate resistance to the dominant socio-cultural order. The institution of the Benedictine monastery, more than the figure of Benedict himself, was the point.

Patrick Leigh Fermor's description of life at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Wandrille de Fontanelle, in his short gem, A Time to Keep Silence, captures this institutional feature of monastic life. Two things in particular struck me in these passages: first, the rigor of the Benedictine life--its difficulty. This is not just "focusing on the family," so to speak, or expressing one's religious sensibilities through art rather than politics. It is, instead, a profoundly different way of life than most people lead. Second, the idea that a subsidiary, but still important, feature of Benedictine life was intellectual--the highest, purest, and most impregnable peak of the ivory tower.

After the first postulate of belief, without which the life of a monk would be farcical and intolerable, the dominating fact of monastic existence is a belief in the necessity and the efficacy of prayer; and it is only by attempting to grasp the importance of this principle--a principle so utterly remote from every tendency of modern secular thought--to the monks who practise it, that one can hope to understand the basis of monasticism. This is especially true of the contemplative orders, like the Benedictines, Carthusians, Carmelites, Cistercians, Camaldulese and Sylvestrines; for the others, like the Franciscans, Dominicans or the Jesuits--are brotherhoods organised for action. They travel, teach, preach, convert, organise, plan, heal and nurse; and the material results they achieve make them, if not automatically admirable, at least comprehensible to the Time-Spirit. They get results; they deliver the goods. But what (the Time-Spirit asks) what good do the rest do, immured in monasteries far from contact with the world? The answer is--if the truth of the Christian religion and the efficacy of prayer are both dismissed as baseless--no more than any other human beings who lead a good life, make (for they support themselves) no economic demands on the community, harm no one and respect their neighbours. But, should the two principles be admitted--particularly, for the purposes of this particular theme, the latter--their power for good is incalculable. Belief in this power, and in the necessity of worshipping God daily and hourly, is the mainspring of Benedictine life. It was this belief that, in the sixth century, drove St. Benedict into the solitude of a cave in the Sabine gorges and, after three years of private ascesis, prompted him to found the first Benedictine communities. His book, The Rule of St. Benedict--seventy-three short and sagacious chapters explaining the theory and codifying the practice of the cenobitic life--is aimed simply at securing for his monks protection against the world, so that nothing should interfere with the utmost exploitation of this enormous force. The vows embracing poverty, chastity and obedience were destined to smite from these men all fetters that chained them to the world, to free them for action, for the worship of God and the practice of prayer; for the pursuit, in short, of sanctity....

These values have remained stable while those of the world have passed through kaleidoscopic changes. It is curious to hear, from the outside world in the throes of its yearly metamorphoses, cries of derision leveled at the monastic life. How shallow, whatever views may be held concerning the fundamental truth or fallacy of the Christian religion, are these accusations of hypocrisy, sloth, selfishness and escapism! The life of monks passes in a state of white-hot conviction and striving to which there is never a holiday; and no living man is in a position, after all, to declare their premises true or false. They have foresworn the pleasures and rewards of a world whose values they consider meaningless; and they alone have as a body confronted the terrifying problem of eternity, abandoning everything to help their fellow-man and themselves to meet it.

Worship, then, and prayer are the raison d’être of the Benedictine order; and anything else, even their great achievements as scholars and architects and doctors of the church, is subsidiary. They were, however, for centuries the only guardians of literature, the classics, scholarship and the humanities in a world of which the confusion can best be compared to our own atomic era. For a long period, after the great epoch of Benedictine scholarship at Cluny, the Maurist Benedictine Abbey of St. Germain-des-Prés was the most important residuary of learning and science in Europe. Only a few ivy-clad ruins remain, just visible between zazou suits and existentialist haircuts from the terrace of the Deux Magots. But in scores of abbeys all over Europe, the same liberal traditions survive and prosper. Other by-products of their life were the beautiful buildings in which I was living, and the unparalleled calm that prevailed there. At St. Wandrille I was inhabiting at last a tower of solid ivory, and I, not the monks, was the escapist. For my hosts, the Abbey was a springboard into eternity; for me a retiring place to write a book and spring more effectively back into the maelstrom. Strange that the same habitat should prove favourable to ambitions so glaringly opposed.

June 15, 2015 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Monday, June 8, 2015

Executive Power and Religious Belief: A Thought on Zivotofsky v. Kerry

One prominent theme in Barack Obama’s presidency is that of the escalation of conflict between traditional religious belief and executive power–in particular the executive/administrative powers brought to bear against religious believers and institutions in a variety of contexts. One can agree with this description, of course, while seeing that escalation of conflict as either a favorable or regrettable development. A recent essay by Adam White in The Weekly Standard takes the latter view; more than a few other commenters and legal scholars take the former.

Today’s Supreme Court decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry does not obviously concern this issue. It instead involved a separation of powers question: whether a congressional statute permitting a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem to request a designation of his place of birth as “Israel” on his passport unconstitutionally interfered with the Executive’s power to recognize sovereign nations (while Israel has been recognized, the national status of Jerusalem remains unresolved). Ultimately the Court held, inter alia, that the Executive’s power to receive ambassadors gives him the exclusive power of recognition, and that this statute interfered with that power. So in a tussle between Congress and the President, the President won.

And yet this was not simply an inter-branch heavyweight fight. Consider the question of Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s status is not only a matter of geopolitical disagreement, but of deep geo-religious contention. That contention stretches back through the past millennia to innumerable wars and religious controversies. The function of this particular statute is plain: to allow those U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem and who, for religious reasons (that is, reasons that may implicate religious convictions), believe that Jerusalem is properly described as an Israeli city, the right to note that association on their passports. As Justice Scalia says in his dissent: Zivotofsky’s parents believed “as a matter of conscience” that it was important to note “their son’s birthplace as part of Israel” and that his “Israeli nativity ‘not be erased’ from his identity documents.” In defending Congress’s power to enact the statute (under the Naturalization Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause), Scalia continued: “[Congress may conclude] that regardless of international politics, a passport or birth report should respect its bearer’s conscientious belief that Jerusalem belongs to Israel.”

Whoever has the better of the argument as a matter of constitutional interpretation, one can see in this case another example of the conflict between Executive power and religious conscience: the Obama Administration refused to permit an individual citizen with a religious belief in the importance of listing Israel as the place of birth of his son to do so. It took an aggressive view of Executive power (both as to whether sovereign recognition powers are exclusive to the Executive and as to whether this particular designation of an individual citizen counts as sovereign recognition) in a context in which it was, once again, opposed to traditional religious conscientious belief. A notation by a private U.S. citizen on his passport, motivated by religious belief in the importance of the designation, is thus transformed into a usurpation of Executive power.

In dissent, Justice Scalia cited Bowen v. Roy (1986), a religious liberty case where parents objected to government use of the Social Security number of their daughter, “Little Bird of Snow,” and to having to supply that number when they applied for benefits. According to the parents’ Native American beliefs, a person needs control over his life for spiritual reasons and use of the number would have “rob[bed] the spirit” of their daughter.” Ultimately the Court had no occasion to balance the government’s interest against a possible religious burden, because it held that the government can use the number for its own internal purposes without impairing anyone’s religious conscience. But a majority of five justices held that the parents should not be required to supply the number, because the government’s asserted interest in combating welfare fraud would not be much compromised if those with religious objections did not have to supply Social Security numbers.

Obviously Justice Scalia is not suggesting that the Zivotofsky parents have a religious freedom claim here. So why the citation to Bowen?

Perhaps for this reason. The argument is not about constitutional compulsion, but about religious (and other sorts of) accommodation. The government is not forced by the Constitution to make an exception for the Zivotofskys. But Congress did–here, and in other contexts (allowing those who wish to specify “Belfast,” rather than “United Kingdom,” to do so on their passports, for example). It grants these exceptions not because it is thereby recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem (as it is not thereby de-recognizing the United Kingdom’s sovereignty over Belfast), and not because the Constitution commands it, but because it understands that for some American citizens, religious and identity-based convictions about Jerusalem’s status are deeply important, and because people care about what the federal government says about them on official documents. The Obama Administration’s position, instead, was that this sort of conscience-based designation trenches on a quite expansive reading of Executive authority. And in staking out that position (and now in vindicating it before the Supreme Court, in a ruling about which I have no comment) the Administration repeated the pattern of conflict with traditional religious belief that it has established in several other controversies and that has characterized its years in power.

June 8, 2015 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Supreme Court Decides Head Scarf Title VII Case Against Employer

I have a brief recap of this minor decision over here. The Twitter version:

Motivations, not knowledge, make the engine of antidiscrimination laws hum.

June 3, 2015 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Bit of Pessimism on the New Pessimism

This column by Damon Linker is a useful summary of some of the current debates concerning the "Benedict Option"--the burgeoning pessimistic weltanschauung inspired by Alisdair MacIntyre's closing words in After Virtue, and characterized by:

[T]raditionalist Christians choosing to step back from the now-futile political projects and ambitions of the past four decades to cultivate and preserve a robustly Christian subculture within an increasingly hostile common culture. That inward turn toward community-building is the element of monasticism in the project. But its participants won't be monks. They will be families, parishes, and churches working to protect themselves from the acids of modernity, skepticism, and freedom (understood as personal autonomy), as well as from the expansive regulatory power of the secular state.

I won't consider the virtues and vices of such a course here. I want instead to suppose that "traditionalist Christians" (and other disaffected constituencies) pursue this approach. And I will assume that by pursuing it, they hope and believe it might be successful. 

The principal question I have is: what cause have they so to hope and believe? Does the success of the Benedict Option not ultimately depend on its political and legal feasibility? Does it not flower or wither at the pleasure of the very culture from which "traditionalist Christians" desire insulation? The preferred instrument of social control in that culture is law. Linker says that the new Benedictines "will presumably still vote and contribute to various public causes, especially those that promise to protect their interests." Yet having withdrawn from politics and law, for whom will they vote? What sort of enfeebled candidates and causes will remain to protect their interests? What legal and political power will want their socially toxic contributions? As I've wondered aloud here before:

There is an assumption, one that one hears with some frequency these days, in some of the talk about focusing elsewhere than law, that if we do so the state and those many that stand opposite will be appeased. They will leave us alone. We will be able to go on defending positions we find important, living the way that we think best, and the state will take its ball and go home. I think that assumption is false. First, I had thought the whole point was to stop discussing law and politics and start talking about something else. And second, skepticism about this assumption is one reason that I admire the difficult work of Rick, Tom Berg, Douglas Laycock, and others. But it is also the reason that I am uncomfortable with the strategy of sympathetic reciprocity that I sometimes see in Tom's always deeply thoughtful commentary. Perhaps mine is an overly pessimistic disposition--and I've now been dutifully admonished about the shortcomings of "sourpusses." But the case here is simpler: if [Jody] Bottum really believes that singing in the trees and rivers will make abortions less common, I'm afraid I see things differently. The state and those on the other side of the issue will see to that. They will be the only game in town.

The Benedict Option claims to be a withdrawal from politics and law. But it is through politics and law that the conditions that constitute the Benedict Option will be permitted to exist, and probably not as an all-or-nothing affair, but through a series of carefully negotiated compromises. Is not the Benedict Option's contemplated political and legal withdrawal a fantasy--a sort of escapism--that is likely to be the very cause of its failure? 

These are questions for the new pessimism asked, admittedly, from a lawyer's point of view. And perhaps there are some answers to them. But if there are, they will be answers rooted in and dependent upon law and politics.

May 19, 2015 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Friday, May 15, 2015

Conference on Kent Greenawalt

I was very pleased to take part in a conference yesterday at Columbia Law School honoring my old master, Kent Greenawalt, and 50 years of his teaching and writing. Together with Paul Horwitz and Andy Koppelman, I was on a panel involving church and state. Subsequent panels followed on free speech and legal interpretation (chiefly statutory interpretation, which has been Kent's primary focus historically). I took the liberty of saying something about criminal law as well, yet another area in which Kent has made major contributions, including as one of Hebert Wechsler's colleagues in revising the Commentaries to the general part of the Model Penal Code. Paul has a nice post on the event.

Here's a quote of Kent's I found in a piece written about a decade ago: “Criminal law scholars are much more divided about desirable approaches than they were in the 1950s, and even among centrist scholars, no one person now has the distinctive stature that Herbert Wechsler enjoyed.” Some of my comments considered and adapted that general thought in the context of law and religion scholarship today, where it is also apt for various reasons.

Just three additional notes from the panels. First, on the speech panel, there was some interesting discussion about the plausibility of the Austinian idea of performative utterances (a concept used and applied by Kent in this book)--whether the distinction between performative and non-performative speech holds up, or whether all utterances are in some way performative and so we need instead to focus on the quality of the performative speech at issue (threats of violence are different for regulatory purposes than a comment at an academic conference, though there may not be a big difference for performance purposes). Second, on the legal interpretation panel, Fred Schauer criticized the notion that "public meaning" cannot be ascertained without recourse to someone's intentions (I believe Larry Alexander among others holds something like the opposite view), though of course one need not subscribe to original public meaning in order to believe that public meaning is coherent. Third, I had never quite realized (though I guess I should have) just how much sympathy Jeremy Waldron has for textualism. Jeremy talked about a seminar in statutory interpretation that he and Kent ran in the late 1990s and it was clear how much they differed in their respective approaches (and how much they enjoyed the debate). Jeremy's talk included 12 ways in which legislation is qualitatively different from other group expression. One of the 12 was that legislation is "dangerous," which I thought was an interesting thing to say.

May 15, 2015 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink