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.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cathy Young on "Fear of a Muslim America"

Given my own current empirical research project on religious liberty cases in the lower federal courts and the distinct Muslim disadvantage in claiming rights of free exercise of religion (a paper that is undergoing multiple rounds of reader reviews before it will be made public in the next few weeks), I found much to praise in this piece by Cathy Young on the Reason web site.

As a self-described conservative (which will come as no surprise to regular readers of Mirror of Justice), I could only sadly nod my head in reading this passage in Young's piece:

Once confined mainly to a few right-wing blogs, anti-Islamic bigotry has become a visible presence in Republican politics and the respectable conservative media. All around the country, right-of-center activists and politicians are trying to use government force to limit the property rights of Muslims and repel the alleged menace of Shariah law. Islamophobia has crossed the line from fringe rhetorical hysteria to active discrimination against U.S. citizens of the Islamic faith.

As Young points out, when Orthodox Jews or traditionalist Christians are asserting free speech and property rights or asking for accommodations from secular government, conservatives generally laud those efforts and bewail liberal secularism when requests for such accommodation fail.  Unfortunately, when Muslim Americans seek the same, some conservatives suddenly fail to see the charisma of religious liberty.  Even aside from the principles at stake, Christian conservatives who indulge in Muslim-baiting rhetoric are shooting themselves in the feet, as most Muslims tend to be traditionalist on social issues and ought to be natural social and political allies.  The foolish anti-Muslim rhetoric issuing from some conservatives and Republican candidates are doing much to ensure that American Muslim voters will vote with the Democratic Party.

One of the strangest elements of this anti-Islamic quasi-movement is the fear that Shariah law will be imposed on hapless non-Muslim Americans.  This odd worry manifested most recently in the controversial pledge that Republican presidential candidates were asked to sign by a conservative family group in Iowa (a group that I have thought well of in the past and with which I had positive relationships with during my years in Iowa).  Although less noticed than the pledge's seeming suggestion that black families were better off under slavery than under present cultural conditions, the pledge also asked candidates to "vow" that they would "[r]eject[] Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control."  Setting aside the pledge's obvious misunderstandings of Sharia law and ignoring the diverse interpretations of Muslim law, one also must wonder why this particular issue was thought so pressing as to be listed alonside family breakdown, same-sex marriage, and pornography.

As Cathy Young rightly says:

The push for Shariah bans is puzzling, to say the least. Since Muslims make up about 1 percent of the U.S. population, and government establishment of religion is prohibited by the Constitution, a Shariah takeover in America is about as likely as a zombie apocalypse.

In sum, Cathy Young well explains why, without denying the need to address actual Islamic extremism, the current political antipathy toward Muslims is a real problem and is a danger to American ideals.  I'm proud to say that, on the Mirror of Justice, Catholics from diverse political perspectives have been united in upholding the dignity of our Muslim neighbors and standing for religious liberty for all.

July 25, 2011 in Sisk, Greg | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Alvare on contraceptive mandate

Helen Alvare has posted a two-pronged critique of the coming HHS contraceptive coverage mandate.

First, the problematic premise of the mandate:

Women’s well-being suffers under a system operating according to the maxim “unprotected sex makes babies.” The Church predicted as far back as 1968 in the encyclical Humanae Vitae that such an ideology would lead to the devaluation of sexual intimacy and of women’s sexual dignity, in particular. For decades, and to the present day, a robust literature—economic, sociological, and psychiatric—indicates that the complete separation of the idea of sex from the idea of procreation does not in fact favor women’s preferences about sex, dating, or marriage. . . . the rates of every outcome harmful to women—uncommitted sexual encounters, sexually transmitted infections, nonmarital births, and abortion—have climbed precipitously during the decades that the federal government has escalated both public and private support for contraception.

Second, the implications for institutional conscience:

Even if its warning about women’s health goes unheeded, however, conscientious health care providers, especially religious ones, ought not to be forced to participate in HHS’s plan to heighten the profile of contraception in women’s health care. Catholic medical institutions are the largest providers of health care to women and men in the United States. Catholic employers serve vast numbers of poor and immigrant and other vulnerable populations. In fact, their social services, health care, and educational facilities regularly pick up the pieces of lives injured by the prevailing sexual marketplace, a marketplace that the federal government is preparing not only to affirm but to exacerbate. At the very least, religious entities ought not to be forced to become complicit in such a plan.

The first argument is a very tough sell today; the second one should not be unless we've lost sight of the value of institutions.

July 25, 2011 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

On Philly's new Archbishop

Well, Michael, I hope the conspiracy theorists don't visit the MoJ website while that photograph you posted is up there!  I get enough hate mail the way it is!  I'll confess, though, that I'm very excited about Charles Chaput becoming Archbishop of Philadelphia. I've had the pleasure of working with him closely on a number of projects and he is a deeply impressive person in every way.  As everyone knows, the Philadelphia archdiocese has very, very serious problems. So Archbishop Chaput faces a daunting job. But I haven't the slightest doubt that he is up to the challenge.

I'm also excited that Archbishop Chaput's voice will be amplified in the Church and the culture as a result of his appointment as Archbishop of Philadelphia.  As he works for reform and renewal in the archdiocese, he will, I have no doubt, be speaking out on national and international issues of the sort that are of central concern to MoJ scholars and readers. He is deeply thoughtful and completely fearless. Because of his profound and unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, and the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, many liberals in the secular and religious media will classify him as a "conservative," indeed, an "archconservative."  But objective observers will soon see that his overall views do not fit neatly into the categories of "conservative" and "liberal."  Of course, that shouldn't surprise anyone who knows anything about the Catholic tradition of thought about justice, human rights, and the common good.

With Timothy Dolan's appointment as Archbishop of New York, David O'Connell's appointment as Bishop of Trenton, and now Charles Chaput's appointment as Archbishop of Philadelphia, this has been an exciting couple of years for those of us living in the New York-Philadelphia corridor. These are three extraordinarily dedicated and dynamic leaders. All three are deeply committed to the Church's social mission and moral teaching.  And all three recognize the need to deepen the understanding of faithful Catholics so that they can become more firmly committed disciples of Jesus, and more effective laborers for justice and human dignity.

July 24, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Archbishop Chaput

As Rick already noted, Philadelphia welcomed its new archbishop this past week. Here's a great photo of our own Robby George with Cardinal Rigali and Archbishop Chaput at the press conference announcing the appointment.

RPG with Cardinal Rigali and Archbishop Chaput 

July 23, 2011 in Moreland, Michael | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 22, 2011

More on "the two-biological-parent family and economic prosperity"

A couple of days ago I criticized William Jeynes for making an unsubstantiated leap from evidence that single parenthood and broken homes create economic hardship to the assertion that families other than those headed by two biological parents create economic hardship.  Today he has a follow-up essay, and thankfully he focuses primarily on single parenthood.  He still, however, throws in some other arguments in an effort to bring all nontraditional family structures into the picture (e.g., citing research that parents are less likely than stepparents or other sexual partners to abuse children in the household), but none of those arguments advance his initial thesis that two-biological-parent families are essential for economic flourishing.  And then there's his conclusion:

Americans would do well to substantially reduce the extent to which they rely on government for economic solutions to the nation’s struggling GDP and instead rethink their definition of a healthy family based on eternal principles that have stood the test of time.

These arguments really make me squirm.  I'm all in favor of reducing the size of government, and I'm encouraged by the tentative signs that folks in DC are finally talking seriously about taking on the entitlement programs.  I'm also all in favor of supporting the culture of marriage, recognizing both the economic and non-economic costs of single parenthood and broken homes.  But these are two separate arguments, and they need to be carefully laid out because either one can easily escape the boundaries of reality-based recommendations and enter the realm of ideological trump cards.  When we essentially say, "Let's stop relying so much on the government to help people and return to families headed by two biological parents," that tends to come across as cold-hearted to those who could be helped by government intervention, and it can provide an easy excuse for folks to blame the poor for their own predicament.  As Archbishop Nienstedt (no shrinking violet on marriage) recently argued in the context of Minnesota's budget battle, "Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all members of our society, especially families who struggle to live with dignity during difficult economic times."

July 22, 2011 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Cervantes on Liberty as Master Value

Thanks to Rick's Bastille Day post, I read and enjoyed Conor Cruise O'Brien's essay on Burke.  In that piece, O'Brien quotes an extended passage from Reflections on the Revolution in France:

Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour, and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind. Abstractedly speaking, government, as well as liberty, is good; yet could I, in common sense, ten years ago, have felicitated France on her enjoyment of a government (for she then had a government) without enquiry what the nature of that government was, or how it was administered? Can I now congratulate the same nation upon its freedom? Is it because liberty, in the abstract may be classed amongst the blessings of mankind, that I am seriously to felicitate a madman, who has escaped from the protecting restraint and wholesome darkness of his cell, on his restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty? Am I to congratulate an highwayman and murderer, who has broke prison, upon the recovery of his natural rights? This would be to act over again the scene of the criminals condemned to the gallies, and their heroic deliverer, the metaphysic Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance.

This passage occurs quite early in the Reflections, and "the metaphysic Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance" is the sobriquet that Don Quixote assumes (I think Sancho Panza chooses it for him).  In the scene referenced and used to great effect by Burke, Don Quixote sees a chain of convicted criminals in manacles walking along the road and guarded closely by several armed officers.  When he learns from Sancho that the convicts are being moved "by force," Don Quixote takes action to "liberate them" -- "to put down force and to succor and help the wretched."  Cervantes is depicting one of the ways in which madness is manifested: in an unflinching and absolute commitment to an abstract value -- here liberty -- no matter the circumstances or cost.

July 22, 2011 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Just a guess


I had a look at the New York Times article to which you provided a link.  As you say, it is short and not very informative.  My sense is that it is meant to warn the Enlightened that the hicks and rubes they look down on as their intellectual and moral inferiors in Texas and similarly backward places are at it again---trying to either ban the teaching of evolution in public schools or mandate the teaching of young earth creationism or both.  But let me venture a guess as to what is actually going on.  I suspect that the "Republican-dominated" state education board is considering requiring that the teaching of Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory be supplemented by including some account or explanation of what critics of Darwinism and neo-Darwinism (such as David Berlinski and David Stove) have to say.  In other words the proposal would be to reveal to students that the main view being presented is not without sophisticated critics, and students should carefully consider what is being said on the competing sides of the debate.  Just a guess.  But, of course, one never knows what those rascally "Republican-dominated" boards in primitive places are really up to.  Thank God we have the New York Times (et al.) keeping an eye on them!

July 21, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

I Don't Get It

This story from today's NY Times raises an issue that I've never been able to understand.  Maybe it's my own background as the child of people in the sciences (though I count myself woefully ignorant about science); and to be fair, the story is short and does not provide much detail about what the "supplemental materials" include.  Let's set aside the questionable constitutionality of any policy which would take up significant space in the science curriculum "disput[ing]" evolutionary theory.  Assuming that the debate is about whether to teach evolutionary theory in the science program of public schools, I do not understand how anyone could sensibly oppose that.

UPDATE: My link seems to go to a different story than the one I found yesterday morning, and I cannot find the earlier one.  The new story also indicates that the board itself (including the Republicans on it) was focused on an important but uncontroversial issue, a vote to approve supplemental materials which, it seems, are in any event non-binding recommendations to the individual school districts.  Some of the people attending the meeting did wish to discuss the more controversial matters, but that did not occur.

July 21, 2011 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Must a Catholic innkeeper host a same-sex wedding reception?

Does a Catholic innkeeper have the right to decline to host a same-sex wedding reception?  At least in Vermont, the answer will undoubtedly be "no."  My own view is that the innkeepers may properly be subject to boycotts, protests, etc., for staking out such morally contested positions, but I do not believe that they should be subject to the coercive power of the state for such positions absent a showing that they have blocked meaningful access to a good or service deemed essential by the political community.  Note that the couple had no difficulty booking another venue. 

July 20, 2011 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)

Law blog rankings update

SuperLawBlogger Paul Caron has posted the latest law-blog-traffic stats, here.  MOJ continues to expand its vast sphere of influence.  (Ed.:  Huh?  Rick:  Shut up.)

July 20, 2011 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | TrackBack (0)