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.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Australian judge overturns religious court ruling"

An intriguing -- and, perhaps, unsettling -- story from Australia: 

An Australian judge rejected a ruling by a Jewish religious court ordering an Australian man to pay an Israeli businessman for the apparent sale of shares in a company. . . In 2010, a panel of three rabbinical judges ordered Amzalak to pay more than $300,000 for the sale of shares to Shlomo Thaler, an Israeli. Amzalak, however, did not make the payments, and the Jewish court issued a siruv that effectively excommunicated him from the community. . . .

Amzalak complained that the Jewish judges were biased. [The court] agreed, concluding that the “arbitration was not conducted impartially."

May 30, 2013 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (1)

Religious Freedom: A Civil-Rights Issue

Here is an interview with Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, on the importance of religious freedom and its centrality as a civil-rights issue.

May 30, 2013 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fr. Andrew Greeley, R.I.P.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Fr. Andrew Greeley, "Chicago priest, best-selling author, noted sociologist and long-time Sun-Times columnist . . . died on early Thursday morning.  He was 85."  He wrote, among other things, some very important studies about Catholic schools, their successes, and their challenges.  R.I.P.

May 30, 2013 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Camosy's "response to critics"

Over at the Catholic Moral Theology blog (which is excellent), Fordham theologian Charlie Camosy has a post up called "Is Disagreement Between Peter Singer and Catholic Teaching on Abortion 'Narrow'? -- a Response to Critics."  The post is a response to concerns expressed by a number of reviewers of his recent book, Peter Singer and Christian Ethics:  Beyond Polarization.  We've talked about Charlie's thesis -- i.e., that there are some important similarities between Singer's ethical commitments and Christian teachings (for example, that we are obligated to take seriously and to try to reduce others' suffering) -- here at MOJ often.  Here's a bit from the post:

While I admit that I could have been more clear about what I meant by “narrow”, it could hardly be said that I meant the difference between the two was “unimportant” or “insignificant.”  I clearly explain how the narrow disagreement, when run through to its logical conclusion, leads to a serious disagreement in terms of practical conclusions about abortion and infanticide.  Furthermore, I spend many, many pages trying to make the complex case that Singer is wrong on the narrow point of the disagreement. Further evidence that I consider it to be serious and important.

By calling the disagreement “narrow”, I’m saying that the disagreement is not “wide.”  One might think that two points of view, one which argues for infanticide and the other which wants to protect even the early fetus, must have wide-ranging disagreement in the abortion debate.  But this is not the case between Peter Singer and Catholic teaching.  The disagreement is deep, but it is deep on only one narrow point–especially relative to all the possible issues about which Singer and the Church could disagree.

May 30, 2013 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Progressive Arguments for Religious Organizational Freedom"

I've posted an article with that title on SSRN, here (subtitled "Reflections on thr HHS Mandate").  As some of you know, I think that one of the most severe threats to religious freedom today--especially the freedom of religious organizations--is the prospect of it becoming a value of which political progressives are skeptical in principle, and which is associated only with conservatives.  I therefore think it's vital at this juncture to make arguments for religious freedom that aim to reach people in the center and center-left.  This piece, written for an excellent roundtable on "Freedom of the Church" sponsored by the University of San Diego Law School, is a first journal-article effort at doing so.  I don't underestimate the depth of tension between a wide scope of freedom for religious organizations and certain features of political progressivism, but I also think it's crucial to appeal to as many common grounds as possible--and I believe there are important ones--as part of the overall case for religious freedom.  (The project also has a personal element for me, as some will know, since I have a fundamental commitment to religious freedom and also myself in the center-left on a lot of issues and principles.)  Abstract:

The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate to cover contraception is the latest in a series of disputes that have made conflicts between politically progressive laws and traditionalist religious beliefs a pervasive feature of the American religious-freedom landscape. This article examines the foundations of the conflict and argues that progressives should support significant protections for faith-based service organizations such as social services and schools. There are sharp ironies when progressives exclude faith-based service organizations from religious-freedom protection, as the HHS mandate originally did. Service to others lies at the core of religious exercise; progressives more than anyone should affirm this; and accommodating such organizations meaningfully both preserves civil liberty and recognizes the overall contributions they make to progressive social goals, such as assisting the needy, even if they conflict with progressive positions on some deeply-felt issues. On the other side, traditionalists have sometimes failed to respect others' liberties, and that has hampered their ability to claim protection from government imposition as a matter of reciprocity, which would otherwise be a strong argument.

May 29, 2013 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink | Comments (12)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Edith Wharton on the moral importance of the great Gothic Cathedrals

105 years ago, Edith Wharton travelled France by car.  In her "Motor Flight Through France," she reflects on the Amiens Cathedral and the other great Gothic cathedrals of France:

[S]o strongly does the contemplation of the great cathedrals fortify the conviction that their chief value, to this later age, is not so much aesthetic as moral. ... Yes, reverance is the most precious emotion that such a building inspires: reverance for the accumulated experiences of the past, readiness to puzzle out their meaning, unwillingless to disturb rashly results so powerfully willed, so laboriously arrived at - the desire, in short, to keep intact as many links as possible between yesterday and to-morrow, to lose, in the ardour of the new experiment, the least that may be of the long rich heritage of human existence.  This, at any rate, might seem to be the cathedral's word to the traveller from a land which has which has undertaken to get on without the past, or to regard it only as a "feature" of aeshetic interest, a sight to which one travels rather than a light by which one lives.


May 28, 2013 in Scaperlanda, Mike | Permalink | Comments (3)

China's Brutal One-Child Policy

The other day, the New York Times, ran this guest op-ed by Ma Jian, called "China's Brutal One-Child Policy."  It's difficult, but important reading (as is this year-old Economist piece.) It is important that respected and respectable voices (I'm looking at you, Melinda Gates and Thomas Friedman) not shy away from speaking up and speaking the truth about this policy, and not rationalize, euphemize, or look the other way.

May 28, 2013 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Berg on Schwartzman: Why Secular-Purpose Limits Should Be Narrow, and "Why Religion Is Special (Enough)"

Micah Schwartzman (UVA) recently published an article in the University of Chicago Law Review entitled "What If Religion Is Not Special?"  I have a fairly good-sized response out in the Law Review's online Dialogue feature.  Two key claims of Micah's article were that (1) you can't support distinctive accommodations for religious freedom unless you also support meaningful distinctive limits on religion serving as the rationale/purpose for laws and (2) ultimately there is no good reason for treating religion differently from deeply held, comprehensive nonreligious moral beliefs.  My response, "Secular Purpose, Accommodations, and Why Religion is Special Enough," makes a broad criticism of claim #1 and a narrower criticism of claim #2.  Abstract:

This article is a response to Micah Schwartzman's What If Religion Is Not Special? (U. Chi. L. Rev. (2012)). Schwartzman argues that existing approaches to the First Amendment's Religion Clauses are either (1) internally inconsistent because they because they treat religion as special for some purposes but not others or (2) unfair to both religion and nonreligion because they wrongly treat religion as different from deep or comprehensive nonreligious moral theories. He ultimately concludes that no existing theory is satisfactory and suggests expanding the clauses' reach to encompass comprehensive nonreligious moral views as well--which means that such views, like religious views, should be exempted from burdensome laws and should also be restricted in serving as the basis for legislation. Schwartzman argues that we are driven inexorably to this sort of general Rawlsian limitation on comprehensive theories as grounds for laws.

I argue that despite the virtues of his analysis, Schwartzman overstates two of his main conclusions. First, contrary to his charges of inconsistency, a theory may coherently treat religion as special for some purposes and not others. In particular, it is perfectly consistent to support religious accommodations while concluding that any constitutional restrictions on religion as a grounding for secular laws should be minimal, perhaps nonexistent. Second, the charge that it is unfairn to treat religion and nonreligion differently is also overstated. Religion has distinguishing features that justify treating it distinctively. We can extend such treatment to systems that share the same features but have not traditionally been called religious, but the extension should be limited—more limited than Professor Schwartzman proposes.  

These online commentary features at major law reviews are a good way to allow academic commentary that is longer and more detailed than a blog post but still reasonably current.

May 24, 2013 in Berg, Thomas | Permalink | Comments (7)

Another great speech at Notre Dame

At Notre Dame Law School's diploma ceremony last weekend, my friend and colleague Jeff Pojanowski -- who had been selected by the graduating class as "Distinguished Professor of the Year" and invited to address the ceremony -- gave an outstanding speech on Saint Felix of Cantalice, the Desert Fathers, the value of stillness, David Schindler, and being a "different kind of lawyer."  Highly recommended ( Download Pojanowski speech).

May 24, 2013 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (2)

Morality and Economic Freedom

Be sure to check out the conversation, at Public Discourse and First Things, among Robert Miller, Rusty Reno, Samuel Gregg, and others, about morality and economic freedom.  Here's a bit, from one of Miller's interventions:

In my view, capitalism is consistent with Aristotelian-Thomistic moral premises, but it is not obligatory given those premises. Indeed, Aristotelian-Thomistic moral theory does not, by itself, tell us much at all about how society should be organized, either politically or economically. In principle, monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy are all morally permissible political systems (which is not to say that every exercise of governmental power in such systems is morally permissible), and capitalism, corporatism, and socialism are all morally permissible economic systems. Aristotelian-Thomistic moral philosophy does not, by itself, imply much about political or economic arrangements.

There is an important reason for this. Aristotelian-Thomistic morality is based on the idea that there is an objective human nature, which implies an objective final end for human beings, so that actions are morally right or wrong depending on whether they are ordered as means to that end. Being based on objective human nature, Aristotelian-Thomistic morals apply to all human beings, wherever and whenever they may be found.

This great generality comes, however, at a cost. For, leaving aside a very few actions that by their nature are incapable of being ordered to the final end of this life—human flourishing—and so are always and everywhere wrong (such as intentionally killing the innocent), all other actions are right or wrong depending on whether, in the actual circumstances in which they are to be performed, they are in fact ordered to the final end.


May 24, 2013 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)