Friday, January 23, 2015
I know that the March for Life in Washington, D.C. was yesterday -- the reason I know this is not, of course, because the annual arrival of hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic and hopeful young people bearing witness to the dignity and equality of every person is a story that is given much notice by the leading media outlets -- but I'm pretty sure it's not too late to re-read this -- which Robby George has called "the greatest pro-life speech ever given" -- by the late Fr. Neuhaus: "We Shall Not Weary, We Shall Not Rest."
. . . That is the horizon of hope that, from generation to generation, sustains the great human rights cause of our time and all times—the cause of life. We contend, and we contend relentlessly, for the dignity of the human person, of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, destined from eternity for eternity—every human person, no matter how weak or how strong, no matter how young or how old, no matter how productive or how burdensome, no matter how welcome or how inconvenient. Nobody is a nobody; nobody is unwanted. All are wanted by God, and therefore to be respected, protected, and cherished by us.
We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person. . . .
Important, sobering reading from Peter Stravinskas at First Things. In "The Future of Catholic Schools and the Future of America," he writes:
A case can be made that the story of Catholic education in the United States is the greatest educational success story not only in the history of the Catholic Church but in all of educational history. . . .
The maintenance and growth of Catholic schools is not merely a matter of internal Catholic interest. There is also societal payoff, however, especially as the government schools continue to struggle. Catholic schools will continue to provide the only serious national alternative to government schools. Which is to say, Catholic education is more necessary today than ever before in the history of the Church and of our nation.
At The Immanent Frame, Prof. Robert Yelle writes (in the course of a discussion about the Hobby Lobby case and related matters):
From a societal perspective, there are significant problems associated with granting such rights to corporations. The rise of the notion of an individual freedom of religion was complemented by a diminution of the Church’s corporate authority. At the beginning of the Reformation, William Tyndale translated the term ekklesia in the Greek New Testament as “congregation” rather than “church.” This was rightly perceived as an attack on the power of the Church, conceived as something distinct from a voluntary association of individuals. Thomas Hobbes followed Tyndale’s translation in an effort to demote the authority of the Church’s corpus mysticum, which would otherwise constitute a threat to the sovereignty of the king (or Leviathan). Churches became voluntary associations whose enforcement powers were limited largely to the power of excommunication. Already before the consolidation of the notion of religion as an individual right, the Peace of Westphalia attempted to remove the possibility that intermediary institutions would dispute, on religious grounds, the authority of the sovereign, by making the prince’s religion that of the land (cuius regio, eius religio). The freedoms that churches and certain religious associations have traditionally enjoyed under the law when acting as religious organizations are the result of a process of negotiation, under which the dangers represented—on the one hand, to individual rights, and on the other, to the sovereign authority of the state—have been sharply circumscribed, at least in America, by what Roger Williams and Thomas Jefferson called a “wall of separation.” The idea that we might be retreating from such settlements is, to say the least, unnerving.
More and more, I encounter the term "settlements" being used to describe the successes nation-states have enjoyed at shrinking, constraining, or dissolving the religious freedom appropriately enjoyed by religious communities, groups, institutions, and authorities (i.e., the Freedom of the Church). It's tempting to declare the status-quo a settlement when one approves of it, but I'm not sure why that label should carry much weight with those who do not. Is some movement away from Hobbes, or Lemon-style misunderstandings of church-state separation, or laicite "unnerving," to use Prof. Yelle's term? Maybe . . . maybe not.
This piece, by my friend and colleague Dan Philpott, at the Arc of the Universe blog (which is run by Notre Dame's Center for Civil and Human Rights) and the Cornerstone blog of the Berkley Center, is definitely worth a read. Among other things, the piece engages critically and carefully Joan Wallach Scott's book, The Politics of the Veil(2007). Here's a bit:
While Scott’s criticisms of France’s laïcité are on the mark, then, her post-modern democracy of difference fails to yield sustainable norms of religious inclusion. Is there a principle that both preserves the core values of liberal democracy and allows religious people to participate and practice their faith robustly within liberal democracy? Coming back to Europe’s Muslims, is there a basis for the principled inclusion of Muslim minorities in European democracies? A strong candidate for such a principle is religious freedom. Ensconced in the global human rights conventions as well as the European human rights architecture, religious freedom has a strong claim to universality. The beauty of this principle is that it both comports with the European heritage of liberal principles and allows Muslims wide latitude to express and practice their religion, including dressing consonantly with their religious beliefs. Religious freedom means the right of women to don a headscarf in France and to doff one in Iran. It also means that religious people may advocate political positions according to their convictions.
Read the whole thing!
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
First, the opinion by Justice Alito is exceptionally well crafted. It should win a Green Bag award or something. It covers the necessary bases, and no more. The language is clear and functional. (It reveals no idiosyncratic aversion to adverbs and includes no cringe-inducing attempts at grandeur.) One knows, at every point in the analysis, where one is.
Second, Justice Alito confirmed (as he had in Hobby Lobby) that RLUIPA (and RFRA) should not be read narrowly so as to provide no more protection than did some of the Court's earlier First Amendment cases. Here, he rejected the notion that "the availability of alternative means of practicing religion is a relevant consideration" for purposes of deciding whether RLUIPA's protections are triggered.
Third, Justice Alito reminded readers that "RLUIPA . . . applies to an exercise of religion regardless of whether it is 'compelled'" by the claimant's religious beliefs or traditions. Fourth, and related, the lead opinion insists that "the protection of RLUIPA, no less than the guarantee of the Free Exercise Clause, is 'not limited to beliefs which are shared by all of the members of a religious sect.'" So, it would not be relevant to the "substantial burden" inquiry under RLUIPA if not all Muslims believe men must grow beards.
These last three points, together, are very helpful, I think, in helping us think more clearly about the idea of "substantial burdens" in the accommodation-of-religion context. What it is that we are asking about when we ask about "substantiality" is not the power or weight of the belief, or its centrality, or its orthodoxy, or its plausibility. We are asking, instead, about the nature of the government's imposition on the sincerely asserted belief. There is no question, for example, that a Roman Catholic's obligation to worthily receive the Eucharist at least once a year is an important one, but a neutral and generally applicable law that, in application, (somehow) increased the cost to Catholics by $.01 would not impose a "substantial" burden on religious exercise. Here, in Holt, the question is whether the penalty imposed or threatened by the government is substantial. And, it is.
Next, the Court was appropriately underwhelmed by the invocation - in broad and general terms -- of a "compelling interest" in prison security and safety. Rather, "RLUIPA, like RFRA, contemplates a 'more focused' inquiry and 'requires the Government to demonstrate that the compelling interest test is satisfied through application of the challenged law 'to the person'––the particular claimant whose sincere exercise of religion is being substantially burdened." And, relatedly, the Court meaningfully -- while giving appropriate consideration to the prison context -- engaged the question whether applying the prison-grooming rule to the claimant, without exception, was the least-restrictive means of accomplishing the government's important goals.
In a separate opinion, Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor clarified (and perhaps qualified) their agreement with the lead opinion. They wrote:
Unlike the exemption this Court approved in Burwell v.
Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 573 U. S. ___ (2014), accommodating
petitioner’s religious belief in this case would not
detrimentally affect others who do not share petitioner’s
belief. See id., at ___, ___–___, and n. 8, ___ (slip op., at 2,
7–8, and n. 8, 27) (GINSBURG, J., dissenting). On that
understanding, I join the Court’s opinion.
While I understand why Justice Alito (and others who joined his opinion) would not think it necessary to respond to this statement, I wish one of the Justices had. The claim that it violates the Establishment Clause to accommodate religion in ways that impose any costs or burdens on third parties is one that, of course, is made and believed by a number of very smart people, but I do not think it is correct. The Court has not clearly established such a general rule; that is, the precedents and quotes that are invoked in support of this claim do not, in my judgment, clearly support such a rule. As I see it (see more here), the question whether a proposed accommodation is too costly is one that RFRA and RLUIPA call to be answered through the statutorily prescribed balancing inquiry, and not through an additional, accommodation-skeptical Establishment Clause inquiry.
Finally: today's opinion offers a very, very welcome counter to the unfair and mean-spirited notion -- one that is, I'm afraid, getting a lot of purchase in some quarters -- that concerns about "religious liberty" are "dog whistles" or "fig leaves" for "bigotry", and so can be dismissed as such. Some invocations of "religious liberty," and some demands for accommodation, have been, are, and will be insincere, or morally offensive, or simply ungrantable. Many others will not. We should take the time to distinguish -- carefully, thoughtfully, reasonably sympathetically -- between the two.
And . . . congratulations to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and to Prof. Doug Laycock.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
I've posted on SSRN a paper of mine called "Chief Justice Rehnquist, Religious Freedom, and the Constitution." I wrote it a few years ago, but it's now going to be published in a forthcoming West Academic Press volume called The Constitutional Legacy of William H. Rehnquist. And, I'll be presenting a version of it in a few weeks at a conference ("The Rehnquist Court: Ten Years Later") at the University of Arizona dedicated to the work and memory of the late Chief. Here's the abstract:
It might not have been foreseen that William Rehnquist would have a marked influence on the Supreme Court’s interpretation, construction, and application of the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses. And yet, he certainly did. Kent Greenawalt wrote that Rehnquist – or, more precisely, the “Rehnquist Court” – “turned the constitutional law of religion upside down.” “[W]e have moved,” he reported, “from expansive readings of both of the religion clauses to narrow readings of the Free Exercise Clause and of very important aspects of the Establishment Clause.” It is suggested in this paper that in facilitating and guiding the “move[s]” identified by Greenawalt, Rehnquist for the most part “turned the constitutional law of religion” right-side up, rather than “upside down.” He left the Court’s Religion Clauses doctrine better than it was before, that is, better rooted in the Constitution’s text, history, structure, and values than it was when he joined the Court. In any event, that the “move[s]” happened, and that they happened in no small part because of him, seems beyond dispute.
Rehnquist was able, for the most part, to exercise both judicial humility in the face of politically accountable actors’ attempts to deal with debatable questions of policy and morality – including most of the questions that arise in free-exercise and non-establishment cases – and careful review of measures and actions that might compromise the structural integrity of our Constitution. This paper’s appreciative review of his contributions to the Court’s Religion Clauses doctrine will, it is hoped, serve as a reminder that cases involving tension or collision between political and religious authority implicate the “first principles” of our constitutional experiment no less than those involving federal interference with the states’ appropriate functions or regulatory overreach by Congress.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Here is an interesting interview with Prof. Steven Smith (San Diego) -- in my view, one of the most important and insightful law-and-religion scholars working -- about his new book and about the "fate of American religious liberty." (Especially as it becomes increasingly common for people to tendentiously dismiss concerns about religious liberty as "bigotry" or "dog whistles.") Here's a bit:
In Rise and Decline I suggest that our contemporary approach to religious pluralism might accurately be characterized as one of denial (or self-deception). We intone, over and over again, that government must be “neutral” toward all religions. And then we desperately try to ignore or obfuscate the fact that in cases of genuine conflict, there simply is no meaningfully neutral position. In this vein, a pervasive strategy is to criticize your opponent’s position for departing from neutrality (as it will, inevitably) while distracting attention (other people’s and your own) away from the fact that your own position is equally a departure from neutrality. There are various techniques for accomplishing this. But the language of “imposing values on others” is one very common (and often rhetorically effective) way of practicing this sort of deception or self-deception.
The exchange among Michael Hanby, George Weigel, and Rod Dreher, over at First Things, is very much worth a read. Hanby, in "The Civic Project of American Christianity", takes stock of our times, and writes:
"[A] revolution in fundamental anthropology will invariably transform the meaning and content of justice and bring about its own morality. We are beginning to feel the force of this transformation in civil society and the political order. Court decisions invalidating traditional marriage law fall from the sky like rain. The regulatory state and ubiquitous new global media throw their ever increasing weight behind the new understanding of marriage and its implicit anthropology, which treats our bodies as raw material to be used as we see fit. Today a rigorous new public morality inverts and supplants the residuum of our Christian moral inheritance.
This compels us to reconsider the civic project of American Christianity that has for the most part guided our participation in the liberal public order for at least a century. . . .
George Weigel (among other things) advises -- and makes a point that I think cannot be made often enough to those of us who aspire to some kind of constructive engagement with and expression about the whole "faith, culture, and public life" cluster of matters:
In a culture that has lost contact with reality, a Church in America equipping its people to be the missionary disciples they were baptized to be (a vocation that includes responsible citizenship) must, in its preaching and catechesis, help its people reestablish that contact. In circumstances as philosophically impoverished as ours, appeals to “metaphysics” and “anthropology” are likely to fail, save with a very small remnant. Similarly, attempts to fight the new Gnosticism with the weapons of logic deployed in service to moral truth are almost certainly doomed to be frustrated, because public life is not, in the final analysis, an exercise in logic alone. But offering the people of the Church a new way to see Things As They Are by looking at the world through the lens of biblical faith might offer a way forward. N. T. Wright puts what I’m trying to say succinctly when he argues that the entire burden of the Pauline letters is to teach new Christians to “think within the biblical narrative, to see themselves as actors within the ongoing scriptural drama: to allow their erstwhile pagan thought-forms to be transformed by a biblically based renewal of the mind” (emphasis added).
Dreher is (even) more pessimistic (or, as he says, "realistic"):
If by “Christianity” we mean the philosophical and cultural framework setting the broad terms for engagement in American public life, Christianity is dead, and we Christians have killed it. We have allowed our children to be catechized by the culture and have produced an anesthetizing religion suited for little more than being a chaplaincy to the liberal individualistic order. . . .
The civic project of American Christianity has come to an end, for how can we produce Christian civic life when we are not producing authentic Christians?
This is not to endorse quietism. I don’t think we can afford to be disengaged from public and political life. But it is to advocate for a realistic understanding of where we stand as Christians in twenty-first-century America. Our prospects for living and acting in the public square as Christians are now quite limited.
Put bluntly, given the dynamics of our rapidly changing culture, I believe it will be increasingly difficult to be a good Christian and a good American. It is far more important to me to preserve the faith than to preserve liberal democracy and the American order. Ideally, there should not be a contradiction, but again, the realities of post-Christian America challenge our outdated ideals.
Read it all. Think about it. Thoughts?
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
There is posted at the Moment website a symposium on the topic "Do the Religious Beliefs of Supreme Court Justices Influence Their Decisions?" The participants are prominent journalists and writers about the Supreme Court, including (not naming all, but just the first three listed!) Tony Mauro, Lyle Denniston, and Robert Barnes.
I've addressed this issue several times over the years at this and other blogs -- as have many others! -- often in the course of replying to the suggestion or accusation that the Catholic justices are imposing Catholic teachings, rather than interpreting and applying the Constitution, in abortion cases. (In the symposium, Lyle Denniston writes that "[i]n his rulings on partial birth abortion, Justice Kennedy has especially been acting out his personal Catholic faith", but this in-my-view unfounded claim seems to reflect Lyle's view that Kennedy's stances in the abortion context are somehow inconsistent with his emphasis in other contexts on "liberty interests.")
Some of the participants observe, and I agree, that it is, if nothing else, interesting that the Court consists at present of six Roman Catholics, three Jews, and no Protestants. (Here's a WSJ thing I did on this subject a few years ago.) I also think that what Emily Bazelon (and several others in the group) said is basically right (at least with respect to some -- I would say a relatively small number of -- cases whether the relevant legal materials are underspecific):
[R]eligious beliefs are part of the sensibilities of some judges, and can inform how they approach cases, even if they don’t say so. It doesn’t make sense to think of the Court as Olympian and objective. The justices are just people, informed by personal background and history. Religion is a component of that.
That said, a few things that some of the participants said struck me as not quite right, or at least as incomplete. (I'm not counting here the symposium editor's report that "[j]ust a decade ago, the general consensus was that justices were like umpires, objectively presiding over the nation’s legal system.") For example, Lyle Denniston -- a widely and rightly respected Court observer -- states that "[i]n the past, Supreme Court justices were highly reluctant to allow their own values to come into play when ruling on religious matters." I am skeptical. For example, it seems clear to me that in the school-aid cases of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s -- cases that some of the participants characterize as "separationist" -- the "values", including the "religious" values, of the justices opposing the aid in question did plenty of work in shaping their views and driving their conclusions about the limits imposed by the First Amendment on allowing Catholic schools and students to participate in education-funding programs. It does not seem right to say that we moved away from the strict no-aid view simply because new justices, unlike their predecessors, were willing to allow their "religious" beliefs (or, more specifically, their Catholic beliefs) to color their decisions about aid. It seems more likely that this move owed a lot to a growing appreciation on the Court for the fact that the strict no-aid view owed more to Justice Black's and others' "own values" than it did to the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment.
I also thought that Stephen Wermiel might overstate the matter when he says that "the separationist view", which he associates with Justice Brennan, has "all but disappeared" on the Court. Here, I think we need to be a bit more nuanced about what "separationist" means, and doesn't mean. For example, some of us think that the Court's 9-0 decision in Hosanna-Tabor is an (appropriately) "separationist" decision, one that vindicates what Wermiel calls "the essence of [Brennan's] separationist view—that having government involved in your religion demeans your religious beliefs." And, the strict separationist Justice Brennan supported strongly the idea -- the idea that is operationalized in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was interpreted and applied in Hobby Lobby -- that it is appropriate to exempt religious believers and institutions, when it's possible, even from generally applicable laws that burden religious exercise, an idea that, unfortunately (as Paul discussed the other day), is increasingly regarded as a bigoted, right-wing "dog whistle."
Tuesday, January 13, 2015