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, April 30, 2020

Religious Freedom In India Takes 'Drastic Turn Downward,' U.S. Commission Says

Religious freedom in India under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken "a drastic turn downward," according to the U.S. government commission that monitors conditions around the world.

In its annual report, the congressionally mandated U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) says the Indian government's enactment last year of the Citizenship Amendment Act discriminated against Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Full story here.

April 30, 2020 | Permalink

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Harvard's homeschooling dystopia denies reality

Razi Lane, a J.D. candidate at the University of Notre Dame Law School, was recently published in the Washington Examiner.

Harvard’s treatment of homeschooling as a presumptively inadequate or dangerous practice ignores countless success stories. Such stories are particularly relevant in poorly rated school districts where children otherwise lack opportunities to reach their fullest potential. Consequently, homeschooling is becoming increasingly popular with low-income minority parents. In many such cases, including my own, a homeschool education opens the door to higher achievement and an incredible network of lifelong friends from coast to coast.

April 28, 2020 | Permalink

Limits of Religious Freedom and the Right to Be Wrong

For those that missed some great articles in First Things, these are definitely worth reading:

Limits of Religious Freedom

The Right to Be Wrong


April 28, 2020 | Permalink

The Disappearing People: The Tragic Fate of Christians in the Middle East

Join the Religious Freedom Institute for a virtual book launch of The Disappearing People: The Tragic Fate of Christians in the Middle East by Stephen M. Rasche (Bombardier Books, 2020). In much of the Middle East today, Christianity stands on the brink of extinction. How did this happen? What lessons can be learned from the fate of Christians in the Middle East? What lessons can be learned that might inform policy and aid decisions for persecuted communities in other parts of the world?

Tuesday, April 28, 12:00 PM

Watch live here.

April 28, 2020 | Permalink

Monday, April 27, 2020

Kansas Governor, Churches Reach Deal on COVID-19 Lawsuit

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said she has reached a deal that could resolve a lawsuit brought by two churches challenging her order banning religious gatherings of more than 10 people to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the deal, the two churches and the Democratic governor agreed to the extension of a temporary restraining order that allows the churches to disregard the 10-person limit. The court's initial order let the two churches to gather in-person until May 2 as long as they complied with social-distancing measures, including keeping worshippers a safe distance from each other. The new proposal would extend that court order to May 16.

The agreement, which a judge must still approve, essentially allows the churches to continue in-person services while the governor finalizes plans for her less restrictive statewide reopening orders that would take effect on May 4.

A religious freedom advocacy group, Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a news release that it reserved the right to continue litigating the matter if the governor does not follow through with “appropriately amending her mass gathering ban.”

Full story here.

April 27, 2020 | Permalink

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Institutional Religious Freedom in Serving Others

I have a post, up at the Religious Freedom Institute's Cornerstone Forum, entitled "Institutional Religious Freedom Includes Freedom in Serving Others." It's about issues that are still relevant notwithstanding the recent focus on the legitimate public-health limits to religious freedom. A bit from the beginning:

Today’s most vexing problems about freedom of religious institutions in the United States concern religious nonprofits that provide social or educational services to others. Such problems, like many others, are currently superseded by the overwhelming health and economic effects of COVID-19. But the issues will return. And the services religious nonprofits provide will be important in responding to and recovering from the pandemic.

      Nonprofits pose complex religious freedom questions because they often straddle the perceived boundary between public and private. Decisions by houses of worship and decisions about clergy get very strong protection because they are regarded as private, involving ministry to the faithful, not the general public. Conversely, some religious organizations serve the public with no conflicts between their own norms and those required by law.

      Some organizations, however, employ or serve people outside their faith but also encounter religious freedom issues because their tenets clash with general laws on immigration, nondiscrimination, or other matters. Consider progressive groups that provide sanctuary or aid to undocumented immigrants, or Catholic adoption or foster agencies that decline to certify same-sex households for child placement, or religious colleges that assign student rooms by biological sex at birth. I call such organizations “partly acculturated”—they provide services of secular value to the broader culture, but some of their religious norms clash with dominant cultural values reflected in law.

      I’ve argued previously that partly acculturated activities deserve significant protection. Religious freedom includes freedom in serving others. The law should not force organizations to be either wholly unacculturated—serving only their own members—or wholly acculturated—subject to all regulations no matter how serious the clash with their beliefs.

The piece includes brief, entirely non-comprehensive evaluations of three proposed pieces of legislation addressing the conflict between nondiscrimination rights of LGBT persons religious freedom rights of institutions serving others: the Equality Act, the First Amendment Defense Act, the Fairness for All Act.

On the quick mention above of how religious institutions are vital in helping people weather the pandemic--physically, emotionally, and spiritually--Byron Johnson and Thomas Kidd have a good article in the Dallas Morning News, also summarized by RFI here. They make an important reminder in the face of all the attention to a very small number of congregations that have behaved irresponsibly.

April 26, 2020 in Berg, Thomas, Current Affairs, Religion | Permalink

Mississippi Case on Worship Services, In-Person versus Drive-In

A federal district judge in Mississippi who's handled a couple of cases about restrictions on religious gatherings writes an opinion setting forth a generally sensible distinction between in-person services (still too risky at this point) and drive-in services with the window cracked in the car enough to hear the sermon/homily or other proceedings (some risk but outweighed by the importance of free exercise of religion). As "re-opening" proceeds and more and more establishments open, it will probably become more complicated to justify prohibitions on small in-person religious gatherings practicing social distancing, but the nature of religious gatherings, and the difficulty of fully enforcing social distancing in them, may provide a justification for a while.

In noting that drive-in services, while protected, are still not "risk-free," the district judge writes:

While it may be imagined that many attendees of such services would be family members who have already been exposed to each other, that will not always be the case. Indeed, it seems quite likely that, as with regular church services, many such attendees will be elderly parishioners who require the assistance of friends or non-resident family members to take them to the service. It is well known that the Covid-19 virus disproportionately kills elderly individuals, and it may therefore be assumed that, if the holding of such “drive-in” services becomes a nationwide trend, that a significant (and possibly large) number of deaths will result. This court believes that preachers and parishioners would be well advised to take this into consideration when deciding whether or not to hold or attend such services.

The judge does not make clear whether, in saying that these risks exist but aren't sufficient to justify legal bans on drive-in services, he is saying (a) there won't be enough such cases of transmission to elderly persons (and eventually deaths) to warrant entirely shutting down drive-in services for everyone, or (b) those cases would result from the person's own voluntary choice to attend the service (and paternalistically overriding her religious choice as to her own health is not a sufficient interest), or (c) some combination of the two. (Obviously, if an elderly resident traveled from and back to a nursing, long-term care, or assisted-living community, there could be more than just her health at stake: some nursing homes have prohibited elderly residents from returning once they leave the facility for any reason unless they're quarantined first.)

April 26, 2020 in Berg, Thomas, Current Affairs, Religion | Permalink

A Podcast on Church Closures and the Pandemic

My colleague, Mark Movsesian, and I have a short podcast reflecting on the problem of church closures and the coronavirus. We talk about some of the legal, cultural, and religious permutations of the controversy. One interesting feature of these cases is that the challenges from Christian groups have generally (at least so far) come from Evangelical, and not Catholic or Orthodox, churches. Mark and I speculate a little about why that might be. Have a listen!

April 26, 2020 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Looking to M.I.X. it up a bit? Try @frmillarmine.

Adrian's post provides an occasion to share this essay by this essay by Moorehouse F.X. Millar, S.J.: Bellarmine and the American Constitution, 95 Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 361 (1930). Fr. Millar is an intriguing figure in the history of American Catholic thought about the U.S. Constitution.

Jesuit Trivia: Fr. Millar's nickname (which he seems not to have liked very much) was "Father Mixie." For an explanation of the transition from I.X. to F.X. in Millar's scholarly self-identification, and more on Millar's life and thought, see this extensive obituary by R.C. Hartnett, S.J., LXXXVII Woodstock Letters 135 (1958) ("For circulation among our only").

April 25, 2020 in Walsh, Kevin | Permalink

Pandemic Deepens Catholic Church’s Financial Crunch

The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a blow to the Catholic Church’s finances, threatening its extensive charitable activities and leading bishops and parish priests to slash expenses and seek funds elsewhere.

This article from WSJ details the financial burden caused by COVID-19.

April 25, 2020 | Permalink