Monday, November 30, 2015
MOJer Lisa Schiltz and I will be at a conference in Rome this weekend, sponsored by the Pontifical Council of the Laity-Women's division. Lisa will be among the 15 speakers from around the world (and I among the 80 participants). Lisa is on a panel discussing how to reconcile work and family commitments. Helen Alvare and Endow Founder, Terry Polakovic, are also speaking from the US. Other papers include discussion of neurological and psychological research on the differences between the sexes, women in leadership, care ethics, and educating girls. My favorite title is: "Women Work and They Have Always Done So," offered by the married Italian economists Stefano and Vera Zamagni.
Was happy to spend a couple of hours listening to Arthur Brooks and John Carr each present and then answer media questions at EPPC's Faith Angle Forum event earlier this month. Though I have yet to read Brooks' new book, The Conservative Heart, I am now more anxious to do so.
Brooks' focus on issues of poverty from a conservative perspective is deeply needed today. The premise of his talk--and book, I believe--is that globalization, the free market and entrepreneurship--when properly confined by the rule of law and property rights--are the forces which have brought billions out of poverty across the world. He is less sanguine about solutions for poverty at home, but his analysis of the state of things seems to me true: for the last several decades, including in debate about welfare reform in the mid-90s, both sides of the aisle have talked about the poor as though they were "liabilities to be managed," not "assets to be developed." Brooks asks: how do we "add value" to those who can be (who are) valuable? How do we help people develop themselves as persons with dignity? His answer is to find ways to help the poor develop themselves such that through their work, they can be needed. "There is something inherently human about becoming necessary to others through your work." More here.
It's a few years old, but worth re-reading. Here's Remi Brague's First Things essay, "The Impossibility of Secular Society." A bit:
. . . Our intuitive sense of the outer boundaries of living memory and concern finds expression in the field of law. One hundred years, what is known as the tempus memoratum, constitutes the longest possible duration for a contract. For example, the longest possible land lease holds good for ninety-nine years. Beyond that, one enters the field of the “immemorial,” rights held not by natural persons but by legal entities such as monasteries, universities, civic organizations, and of course the state itself. In a certain brocard, or common saying of ancient French law, “He who has eaten of the king’s goose gives back a feather a hundred years later,” which means that for crimes against the state there is no temporal limit. The king remembers forever.
What does all this have to do with the idea of a “secular” society? A great deal. The French language possesses two different adjectives meaning “secular”: on the one hand séculier, on the other séculaire. Séculaire means what lasts for more than one century—say, a tree, or a custom. Séculier originally designated a “secular,” a cleric who, as we have seen, doesn’t live according to the rule of a monastic or religious order but instead pursues his vocation in the world as a diocesan functionary. In the modern era, as Mill recognized and imported into English, it acquired the added meaning of an outlook, a person, or a body of people that renounces the transcendent. . . .
Thursday, November 26, 2015
As a follow-up to (and big improvement on) my post, a few days ago, on the Syrian-refugee question, check out Michael McConnell, here, who says "Yes, We Should Consider Refugees' Religion: It's Not Only Fair, It's Written Into Law":
Americans have heard a lot of nonsense in the past week about the role of religion in our refugee policy – from both sides. Senator Ted Cruz has been derided, mostly justly, for saying that no Muslim refugees – but only Christians – should be admitted to this country from the killing fields of Syria and Iraq. But President Obama’s angry reaction that use of a “religious test” for evaluating asylum seekers would be “shameful” and “not American” is even more wrongheaded. “That's not who we are,” he said to an audience in Turkey, apparently in response to Cruz. “We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”
Except we do. It’s in the law.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which governs these issues, defines “refugee” as someone who has fled from his or her home country and cannot return because he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of “religion” – as well as race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. This certainly doesn’t let us use a religious test to filter otherwise-eligible immigrants out. But it does mean that when we’re deciding who to admit as refugees, religion matters.
So, when we think about religious refugees from the war-torn parts of the Middle East, who are we talking about? Right now Christians who are being singled out for religious persecution – beheadings, beatings, rape, forced conversions, enslavement. So also Yazidis, Mandaeans, and a few other smaller groups. Many Muslims are also displaced and suffering, but the Islamic State is not systematically targeting them for being Islamic. Our refugee policy should take that into consideration. This is not a “religious test.” It is a persecution test. . . .
Read the whole thing.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Thanks to Marc for posting about Anthony Trollope's The Warden, which is indeed a lovely novel. Trollope is one of my favorites, because his social criticism--which is definitely there--is tempered with a wryness and wide-ranging sympathy that often eluded Dickens. Trollope seems to trend every once in a while (I remember years ago when the series based on the Palliser political novels was big on Masterpiece Theatre). And according to Adam Gopnik recently in the New Yorker, he's trending again. Marc's post reminded me of Nathaniel Hawthorne's great assessment (which Gopnik quotes) of Trollope's novels:
“Just as real as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth and put it under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily business, and not suspecting that they were made a show of.”
Three cert petitions were recently filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in an important case involving school choice and religious rights in Colorado. The local school district in Douglas County adopted a neutral program of scholarships for families to use for sending their children to any private school, religious or nonreligious. But the Colorado Supreme Court held that religious schools and families must be singled out for exclusion from this program; 3 of the 4 justices in the majority relied on Colorado's Blaine Amendment, the constitutional provision that prohibits aid to "sectarian" schools. The petitions argue that the Colorado court's ruling requiring this exclusion (1) ignores the 19th-century animus and prejudice against Catholics that motivated Colorado's and other states' anti-aid provisions, and (2) independent of this historical taint, violates the First Amendment by singling out religious choices for discriminatory denial of aid. (Here is one of the petitions, the school district's, with links to petitions by the state and by intervening parents.)
There's now an amicus brief from the Christian Legal Society, the Becket Fund, and others supporting the cert petitions. We expand on the argument about the prejudice-tainted background of state Blaine Amendments. We also show why the passage of time since their enactment does not immunize them from constitutional review based on their discriminatory motivation and the discrimination they are accomplishing today.
Finally, we explain why the Court ought to take this case: (1) among other things, state judges and other officials have (wrongly) come to think they have carte blanche to exclude people choosing religious options from generally available state benefits, and (2) the federal government bears partial responsibility for these discriminatory provisions because it pressured states joining the Union in the late 1800s and early 1900s to include such provisions as a condition of admission.
The University of St. Thomas Religious Liberty Appellate Clinic, which I direct, wrote the amicus brief. Thanks to my student Dan Burns for doing a significant amount of the drafting.
Fingers crossed on this case! It's obviously always difficult to get cert; and school choice cases are hard to bring before the Supreme Court. But the historical evidence of anti-Catholic animus in Colorado is as strong as that in any state. This may be the case that gets the Court's attention on how state constitutional provisions are being used to require insupportable discrimination against religiously grounded schooling.
Monday, November 23, 2015