Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Beyond Politics

Now that the election is past, I’d like to encourage us to move beyond politics (at least for two years but maybe longer) and to think more creatively about how MOJ and the development of Catholic Legal Theory can contribute its small part to the transformation of our culture.  And, yes, I believe we have been given only a small but important portion of this vineyard to till. 

As most of you know, I intentionally do not blog directly (at least not very often) on partisan politics, and I did not publicly endorse a candidate, although there was probably little doubt about who I thought was disqualified.  As I have mentioned before, I don’t like to blog directly on partisan  and especially electoral politics because of an intuition that we are engaged in a much more important, longer-term, and deeper project than the partisan bickering (no matter how important) of the moment.

Thanks to my children directing me to Gregory Wolfe, his collection of essays, Intruding Upon the Timeless, and his journal Image, I now have some words to express this intuition.  In an essay entitled “Why I am a Conscientious Objector in the Culture War,” Wolfe states that he has strong opinions on most of the current hot button issues and will give voice to those opinions where appropriate.  He is not bothered by the conflict but by the means used to wage the culture wars.  “[T]he urgent need at the moment is to recognize that we cannot reduce culture and its various modes of discourse to nothing more than a political battleground.  The political institutions of a society grow up out of a rich cultural life, and not the other way around.  As it etymology indicates, the word culture is a metaphor for organic growth.  Reducing culture to politics is like constantly spraying insecticide and never watering or fertilizing the soil.”

His words resonated with me.  But, after reading this essay, I argued with my daughter that far from being a conscientious objector, Wolfe was fighting the culture war on another perhaps nobler front.  Another of his essays showed me I was wrong, but that is for another post... 


My thoughts are further developed in Beyond Politics II, BP III, and BP IV.

November 30, 2008 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

November 27, 2008 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The "Culture of Life" and the Death of Public Financing for Presidential Campaigns

Riffing off of Rick Garnett's post questioning Doug Kmiec's editorial praising Senator Kennedy for supposedly building up the "culture of life" by sponsoring legislation providing for public financing of presidential campaigns, by Professor Kmiec's measure then, President-elect Barack Obama has undermined the "culture of life" by dealing a death blow to public financing of presidential campaigns.

Senator Obama had promised in writing and unequivocally to accept public financing for the fall campaign if he were the nominee, presumably to, as Professor Kmiec writes, "curb[] the corrupting influence of money in politics."  Instead, Obama broke his promise, continued aggressive fundraising (including repeated trips to Hollywood to hobnob with the wealthy glitterati) to election day (and beyond), and introduced a massive flood of money (and a corresponding excess of television political advertising) into a presidential campaign, the likes of which we had not seen since the heyday of Richard Nixon.

After this year's experience, no future candidate for President will ever again accept public financing.  If a significant part of Senator Kennedy's legacy is indeed public financing of presidential campaigns, it is perhaps ironic that the candidate to whom he gave an early endorsement became the candidate who by his actions destroyed that public financing and ensured that every future presidential campaign will be focused on raising and spending more and more money every four years.

Greg Sisk

November 27, 2008 in Sisk, Greg | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dear Rick: A Clarification

Rick understandably but nonetheless incorrectly assumes that when I post something by someone else (e.g., John Haldane) on MOJ, I do so (in part) because I agree with the contents of the post.

Well, sometimes I do post something by someone else  because I agree with the contents of the post and want to share it with MOJ readers.

But sometimes I post something by someone else not because I agree with it--I may not agree with it, or with all of it, or I may not even know whether I agree with it--but just because I think that many MOJ readers will be quite interested in it.

And sometimes I post something ... just to get a rise out of Rick.  (Just kidding, Rick!)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. 

November 26, 2008 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Campaign-spending regulations build up the "culture of life"?

Let's concede that, in his long career, Sen. Kennedy has sometimes championed legislation that has promoted the common good, well understood, and has sometimes even moved the ball in a positive direction (when he has not been pushing it in the wrong direction) on the "culture of life."  Let's concede (not that it was ever really disputed) that the Church's teachings on life implicate more than the status of Roe v. Wade.  But seriously . . .  Does Doug Kmiec really now believe that Kennedy has "built up" the "culture of life" by "curbing the corrupting influence of money in politics with the public financing system for presidential candidates in 1974"?

November 26, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Religious schools and civic education in Canada

We've talked a lot over the years, here at MOJ, about the importance of non-state associations and their expression to a free, authentically pluralist society.  So, the developments described in this story might be of interest:

A Roman Catholic private school sued the Quebec Education Department, demanding the right to continue teaching its own curriculum rather than a new series of ethics and religious culture courses mandated by the province.

Loyola High School and a student's parent, John Zucchi, say the courses imposed by the province are "fundamentally incompatible with its Catholic convictions and mission" as it propounds an ideology of "normative pluralism" that trivializes religious belief. 

Loyola asked to be exempted from the province's new courses in a formal letter to Education Minister Michelle Courchesne. Loyola wrote that it intended to adjust its program to make it compatible with the province's new courses. Its request was denied in early August. . . .

The school asserts that the minister denied its proposal for an alternative course of study due to her desire to achieve "complete uniformity in education throughout Quebec." In doing so she disregarded a section of the Education Act that allows religious schools to seek exemptions from the province's required programs of study if an equivalent program is provided, Loyola maintains. . . .

The state has no place in imposing its views about religion on children," the complaint states.  Loyola said it strives to instill in its students an appreciation for other religions, but the province's courses are "unacceptable in that it would amount to inculcating in students two diametrically opposed world views."

Stay tuned!

UPDATE:  A reader (from Canada) writes:

In Quebec a private Catholic school receives funding from the State for the operational aspects of the program. . . .  Also in Canada we do not have the same separation of Church and State you do in America.  In Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta Catholic schools are public schools and receive full funding both for capital construction and operations.  Catholic schools, as well as other faith schools in the Provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, and Quebec as well as non-Catholic faith schools in Saskatchewan and Alberta receive funds for operations but not capital.  Such schools are considered private.  In Ontario private faith schools, including private Catholic schools receive no funding of any type.  Schools in the four maritime provinces replicate the American model.


The Quebec case is unusual because the exemption does exist. What I mean by unusual is that the exemption has not been allowed. However you have to understand the history of Quebec education and Quebec society in order to understand why the request has been denied.

I won't be surprised to find the courts rule in favour of the government.  The schools only choice would be to reject the operational funds. They would have been far better to not challenge the government and to build a course which taught Catholicism within the syllabus of the new course.

November 26, 2008 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Some Interesting News from the Sunshine State

New York Times, November 26, 2008

Florida Gay Adoption Ban Is Ruled Unconstitutional


MIAMI — A Florida law that has banned adoptions by gay men and lesbians for over three decades is unconstitutional, a judge here ruled on Tuesday.

“The best interests of children are not preserved by prohibiting homosexual adoption,” the judge, Cindy S. Lederman of Miami-Dade Circuit Court, said in a 53-page decision. She said the law violated equal protection rights for children and their prospective parents.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said the state would appeal, and the case is likely to end up before the State Supreme Court.

Florida is the only state with a law prohibiting gay men and lesbians — couples and individuals — from adopting children. The Legislature voted to prohibit adoptions by gay men and lesbians in 1977, in the midst of a campaign led by the entertainer Anita Bryant to repeal a gay rights ordinance adopted by Dade County.

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the Florida law.

Some states, like Mississippi and Utah, effectively bar adoptions by same-sex couples through laws that prohibit adoption by unmarried couples. Arkansas voters passed a similar measure this month.

The ruling on Tuesday will allow Frank Martin Gill, 47, a gay man from North Miami, to adopt two foster children whom he has raised since 2004. “Our family just got a lot more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving,” Mr. Gill said in a news release issued by the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented him.

Robert Rosenwald, director of the LGBT Advocacy Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and one of the lawyers on the case, said, “The case means that these two boys won’t be torn from the only home that they’ve ever known,” said.

The state presented experts who argued that there was a higher incidence of drug and alcohol abuse among same-sex couples, that their relationships were less stable than those of heterosexuals, and that their children suffered a societal stigma.

But lawyers for Mr. Gill presented evidence contradicting those contentions, which Judge Lederman found persuasive.

“It is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person’s ability to parent,” she wrote.

Mr. Rosenwald called the decision a huge victory for gay and lesbian parents and for almost 1,000 children in Florida waiting to be adopted.

“The court for the first time after hearing all of the evidence determined that the scientific evidence is crystal clear,” he said. “There is no dispute that children raised by gay parents fare just as well or better than children raised by straight parents.”

November 26, 2008 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Doug Kmiec on Senator Ted Kennedy

NCR, November 26, 2008

In thanksgiving for Ted Kennedy's legacy of faith-filled service

In politics, no one is free of controversy and Ted Kennedy has had his share. Yet, it cannot be gainsaid that he has lived JFK's inaugural observation that "here on earth, God's work must truly be our own." Kennedy's faith is that of Francis calling us to look first to the needs of the poor. It is the faith of Benedict and Thomas Aquinas calling us to discipline our minds and to understand the importance of seeking good and avoiding evil. It is the faith of Thomas More reminding us that on this earth it is up to us to establish legal and political systems of justice. It is the faith of John Paul II who invited us to cross the threshold, not in fear, but with hope.

Ted Kennedy's faith also calls upon the Nicene Creed to remember that despite our political differences, we remain "one holy catholic and apostolic Church."

For too long in America, people of good will sharing the Catholic faith have been divided. We have been told, or we have convinced ourselves, that unless there is perfect agreement on every issue, there can be no friendship. It has served the narrow, partisan political interests of some to keep us divided, and those who profit politically by such division were -- regretfully -- present again in 2008.

Often our most profound disagreements have been over the most innocent -- the unborn. We grasp the necessary primacy of the right to life, but then seemingly cannot comprehend that there may be more than a single way to build a "culture of life." The church has always meant this phraseology to be far broader than the reversal of one, aberrant Supreme Court opinion.

Ted Kennedy has built up that culture by: reforming immigration in 1965 (abolishing irrational quotas); creating a federal cancer research program in 1971 that quadrupled the amount spent on the number one disease affecting millions of Americans each year; promoting women's equality in college sports with the passage of Title IX in 1972; curbing the corrupting influence of money in politics with the public financing system for presidential candidates in 1974; securing the creation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday in 1983; bringing racial justice to South Africa by spearheading the 1986 anti-apartheid efforts; co-authoring in the 1990s, the Family and Medical Leave Act helping business to begin to understand the Catholic insight that "work is for man; man is not for work; allowing for student loans at subsidized rates; passing the law in 1996 that allows employees to keep health insurance after leaving a job; sponsoring needed increases in the minimum wage; requiring more rigorous testing of public school students in 2001; and even in the last few months in the midst of his own illness, securing Senate passage of a measure requiring doctors to provide parents with the latest information about caring for children with disabilities as well as available support services and networks that can help parents unfamiliar with Down syndrome choose life. The bill also calls for creation of a national registry of families willing to adopt the disabled child. Today, 80 to 90 percent of women who learn they are carrying an unborn child with Down syndrome opt for abortion. Kennedy and co-sponsor Senator Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, believe accurate information about services available will bring that tragically obscene rate down.

The legislative accomplishments of Ted Kennedy remind us how our faith is less categorical demand than the extension of empathy, compassion and assistance to those who stand in need among us now, whether that is a mother facing an unwanted or complicated pregnancy or a worker who was been left behind in the race for corporate greed that now gives rise to the financial bail-out.

With his early endorsement of the new president-elect, Ted Kennedy was one of the first to invite us to contemplate replacing "the politics of fear with the politics of hope." Thank you, Senator, in this case, as in so many you have done your nation a great service.

(Douglas W. Kmiec is the Caruso Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University, School of Law.)

November 26, 2008 in Perry, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Obama Chooses Private School for His Kids: Might He Have a Change of Heart on Choice for Other Kids?

During the past two decades, every Democratic nominee for President has vigorously opposed school choice for poor children trapped in failing urban public schools, even while choosing to send his own children to private rather than public schools. Looking to the Presidents who had school-age children while in the White House in recent decades, Democratic President Clinton rejected the D.C. public schools and chose an elite Washington, D.C. private school for his daughter. Nonetheless, President Clinton stood loyally by the teachers' unions and resisted any federal support, even as a token, that would afford a similar choice for poor children in the District of Columbia. By contrast, Republican President G.W. Bush kept his twin daughters in public school in Texas, even as he supported the initiation of a school voucher pilot program in the District of Columbia.

Now we learn that our next Democratic President Barack Obama likewise has bypassed the D.C. public school system and selected the same elite and expensive private school -- Sidwell Friends -- for his two daughters. During the campaign, Obama adhered to the teachers' union mantra against educational choice. Having chosen Sidewell Friends as the school for his own children, might he now have a change of heart?

As said in a Washington Post editorial urging continued support for school choice in D.C.: "[A]s President-elect Barack Obama and his wife decide what's right for Malia and Sasha, Mr. Obama might want to think about the families that he would deny this precious freedom of choice." The question is especially poignant now that the Obama family has chosen a private school that participates in the D.C. voucher program and thus includes children whose only opportunity to attend that school may be afforded by the continuation of the program. As the Washington Post concluded, if President Obama were to stand by his position that the D.C. voucher program should be terminated, "classmates of Malia and Sasha might lose the ability to attend their chosen school . . . . That wouldn't seem fair."

Greg Sisk

November 26, 2008 in Sisk, Greg | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Stone on Prop. 8 and church-state separation

In this piece, Prof. Stone contends (among other things) that California's Proposition "was a highly successful effort of a particular religious group to conscript the power of the state to impose their religious beliefs on their fellow citizens, whether or not those citizens share those beliefs", and that "[t]his is a serious threat to a free society committed to the principle of separation of church and state."  (Prof. Stone and I went back and forth on (pretty much) the same question, a year or two ago, in the context of the Supreme Court's decision upholding the ban on partial-birth abortion.)

There is much in Prof. Stone's piece with which I (and, I would think, most reflective religious believers) agree.  For example, he is right, I think, that "[t]he First Amendment gives us virtually absolute protection to preach, proselytize and evangelize."  We also agree -- as it happens, I have good religious reasons for believing -- that, as Greg Kalscheur has put it, there are "moral limits on morals legislation"

Prof. Stone and I (and Pope Benedict XVI) agree entirely regarding the importance of the principle of "separation of church and state", properly understood.  To invoke this principle's importance though, and even to point to the fact that religious believers were much more likely to support Proposition 8 than were non-believers, does not, in my view, establish the point that Prop. 8 is (putting aside other questions about its merits) an effort to (in his words) "conscript the authority of the state to compel those who do not share their religious beliefs to act as if they do."  As Stone himself writes, "[l]ike other citizens, [religious believers] are free in our society to support laws because they believe those laws serve legitimate ends, including such values as tradition, general conceptions of morality, and family stability."  I do not see why we should think that this is not what Prop. 8's supporters believe.  Stone insists that religious believers "are not free – not if they are to act as faithful American citizens – to impose their religious views on others", but again, it does not follow from the fact that most of Prop. 8's supporters are religious believers that they are trying to "impose their religious views on others."  (There are all kinds of issues, I would think, where it can be said that substantial support for the position enshrined in law comes or came from religious believers.  After all, lots of Americans are religious believers.)

November 26, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)