Thursday, August 31, 2006
I have followed with great interest the discussion among several MOJ contributors regarding the Georgetown University Ministry decision regarding the Protestant ministry office. I do not have answers to the questions posed by Rick and Susan about Georgetown. I did, however, find the justification offered for the decision not to rely on "outside groups" to be rather thin. My reason for stating this is based on an examination of several Jesuit tradition university campus ministry websites, including Georgetown's. With hyperlinks from these sites, one can discover varying degrees of connections with many outside groups when it comes to a variety of programs including "social justice" volunteer opportunities. These links would apply to students of all faiths at these universities. In this category, one will come across links to the ACLU and Amnesty International. Some of these two organizations' existing programs or new programs under consideration challenge Catholic teachings on important subjects. Yet, these outside organizations are institutions to whom Catholic students are referred directly and indirectly by the Catholic chaplaincy offices. I wonder if anyone at Georgetown or other Jesuit tradition schools has considered the effects that such organizations could have on their Catholic students? Or, Protestant students? As I said, earlier, I really don't have answers to Susan's and Rick's questions. Rather, I have some new issues that may intensify discussion on this topic. RJA sj
In Books & Culture, Penn law prof David Skeel reviews The Teachings of Modern Christianity on Law, Politics and Human Nature (a volume to which MoJ-er Patrick Brennan contributed) and notes the growing interest in exploring the intersection of Christianity and law:
From the early 20th century until the 1940s, evangelical Christians disengaged from American public life. Law schools were hostile territory, generally to be avoided. As a result, the few evangelical legal scholars tended to operate under cover, assiduously separating their faith and their scholarly life. By the 1970s, Presbyterian minister and apologist Francis Schaeffer and other evangelical leaders, building on the efforts of predecessors such as Carl Henry and Harold Ockenga, had begun asking why there weren't more Christian lawyers, doctors, and businessmen. The evangelical re-engagement that followed has spread to academic circles, but more slowly than to business and the professions. Even now, it is an unusual law school that has more than one or two scholars who identify themselves as Christians, and whose faith explicitly informs their scholarship.
The publication of The Teachings of Modern Christianity, and the major Pew Charitable Trust funding that launched the project, signifies the major change underway. With the visible influence of Catholic intellectuals and evangelical leaders on the current White House, there suddenly is a deep interest in perspectives on religion, politics, and law. Legal scholars are not oblivious to these developments, as reflected in the increasing numbers of law review articles with "Christianity" in the title. Much of the new scholarship, too much perhaps, emphasizes philosophy and philosophical theology at the expense of other methodologies. The bias is understandable. For a generation chastened by Mark Noll's brilliant indictment, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, it's hard to resist the assumption that philosophy must be the truest and highest scholarly end.
Read the whole thing here.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
The rape and resulting pregnancy of an eleven year-old girl presents one of the more sympathetic cases for abortion rights. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church in Columbia has responded by excommunicating anyone involved in the girl's abortion, including the judges, legislators, politicians, and parents who made it possible. (HT: Open Book)
UPDATE: Hold on. The prelate denies saying that the parties involved will be excommunicated. But another interesting wrinkle emerges regarding a professional's right of conscience:
In May, Colombia's constitutional court legalized abortion in cases where fetuses were severely malformed, the pregnancy was the result of a rape or incest, or the mother's life was in danger. Initially, doctors refused to perform abortions, wary of later facing prosecution. But the court issued a ruling compelling doctors to abide by its decision if the woman's case fell within the criteria.
Professor Friedman reports:
California Governor Signs GLBT Bias Bill With No Religious Exception
In California, the Campaign for Children and Families is criticizing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signing on Monday of SB 1441 that adds "sexual orientation" to the law that prohibits discrimination by any program that receives state financial assistance. Critics are concerned that there is no exception for religiously affiliated institutions. Religiously affiliated colleges enroll students who receive state financial aid, and many religiously affiliated children's day care centers and after-school programs receive state aid. CNSNews today, reporting on these developments, says that other bills calling for equal treatment of gays and lesbians are also pending in the California legislature.
In a case called New York City v. Fifth Ave. Presbyterian Church, No. 06-163, the City has filed a cert. petition which includes, according to U.S. Law Week, the following Question Presented:
> "Did the holding of Second Circuit that church's maintaining of nightly
> encampment on its steps is constitutionally protected religious conduct err
> by failing to consider that church's failure to provide security, toilets
> and sanitary facilities, and shelter from elements stands in direct
> contravention to religious doctrine of serving needy, which church cites as
> basis for maintaining encampment?"
Wow. "Please tell the Second Circuit to tell the church that it is wrong about its religion." (Thanks to Walter Weber for the news.)
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
This Wall Street Journal piece reports that "[o]ver the past two years scores of organizations have faced scrutiny [from the IRS] for allegedly mixing their political convictions with their religious ones. And this summer the IRS expanded a program it first launched in 2004 to take direct aim at political advocacy inside houses of worship." It continues:
The new crackdown, which the IRS calls the Political Activity Compliance Initiative, has so far put some 15,000 nonprofits--mostly churches--on notice that preaching politics puts them at risk of audits, fines or, in some cases, the loss of tax-exempt status. The IRS has also announced it will no longer wait for complaints to come in, but will instead take action "to prevent violations." It will be reviewing the content of sermons, it says, as well as the financial books of religious organizations. The free exercise of religion could now come with a hefty bill.
I wrote a few months ago, in USA Today, that:
Religious leaders and activists have always spoken provocatively — and even prophetically — about faith's implications for citizens, candidates, policies and elections. Not surprisingly, these reminders often prompt criticism and resistance in the pews, the news media and the public square. But we should neither demand nor expect our faith commitments or religious ministers to tell us only what we want to hear, or always to assure us that we and the status quo are doing just fine. What's more, it should not be the place of government officials or IRS agents to impose and enforce a line between pastors' stirring sermons and partisan stump speeches. . . .
It is the regulation of the churches' expression, and not their expression itself, that should raise constitutional red flags. Religious institutions are not above the law, but a government that respects the separation of church and state should be extremely wary of telling churches and religious believers whether they are being appropriately "religious" or excessively "political" or partisan. Churches and congregants, not bureaucrats and courts, must define the perimeter of religion's challenges. It should not be for the state to label as electioneering, endorsement, or lobbying what a religious community considers evangelism, worship or witness.
Of course, there are good reasons — religious reasons — for clergy to be cautious and prudent when addressing campaigns, issues and candidates.
Reasonable people with shared religious commitments still can disagree about many, even most, policy and political matters. It compromises religion to not only confine its messages to the Sabbath but also to pretend that it speaks clearly to every policy question. A hasty endorsement, or a clumsy or uncharitable political charge, has no place in a house of worship or during a time of prayer — not because religion does not speak to politics, but because it is about more, and is more important, than politics.
See also this paper I wrote a while back, "A Quiet Faith? Taxes, Politics, and the Privatization of Religion":
The government exempts religious associations from taxation and, in return, restricts their putatively “political” expression and activities. This exemption-and-restriction scheme invites government to interpret and categorize the means by which religious communities live out their vocations and engage the world. But government is neither well suited nor to be trusted with this kind of line-drawing. What’s more, this invitation is dangerous to authentically religious consciousness and associations. When government communicates and enforces its own view of the nature of religion, i.e., that it is a “private” matterand of its proper place, i.e., in the “private” sphere, not “in politics” it tempts believers and faith communities also to embrace this view. The result is a privatized faith, re-shaped to suit the vision and needs of government, and a public square evacuated of religious associations capable of mediating between persons and the state and challenging prophetically the government’s claims and conduct.
Susan responds here to my post about the recent decision at Georgetown regarding outside Protestant ministries. Regarding my assumption that "Georgetown's campus-ministry office has similar policies with respect to outside Catholic ministries and organizations, like Opus Dei and Regnum Christi," Susan writes that "it appears that the change in policy is one that affects only the affiliated Protestant ministries operating at Georgetown, not any Catholic ones." I continue to suspect, though, that Georgetown's Office of Campus Ministry policies with respect to outside Catholic ministries like Opus Dei and Regnum Chrisi looks like the one recently adopted for outside Protestant ministries. Does anyone know for sure?