Thursday, April 11, 2024

The kids are (kind of) alright

My Temple does a program for final-semester HS seniors, a capstone to their Jewish educations designed to explore Jewish values and ideals and their connection to the real world they are about to enter (to the extent college is the real world). My kid is doing it this year, in a group of about 10 kids.

On Monday, I spoke with the group about free speech on campus. I tried to give the spiel that many schools include (or have spoken about including) in freshman orientation--the basic categories of unprotected expression, the limits on content and viewpoint discrimination, the permissibility of neutral time, place, manner restrictions, the ideas behind protest and civil disobedience, and academic freedom. I tried to get at what I think is a basic idea: Much (most?) of the speech they will encounter on campus, however offensive, is constitutionally protected; they should not count on the university to either talk back or silence the objectionable speakers; and the remedy to be applied is more speech. And, given the context, I tried to frame it in terms of Jewish values, something I have mentioned before and am trying to get my head around (it helps that Brandeis is the source of the "more speech" idea).

At least from their reactions, they seemed receptive. he most skeptical eye turned to the idea that a professor could publish a book denying the Holocaust or give a speech denying October 7 without consequence. Mostly, they did not want to sit back and let the worst antisemitic speech go, but they understood the difference between talking back and silencing.

But the experience, along with recent events on this campus, convinces me that schools should include something like this in orientation.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 11, 2024 at 01:42 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

3rd Annual “Law vs. Antisemitism” Conference (February 25-26, 2024)

FIU College of Law will host the 3d Annual "Law v. Antisemitism Conference, Sunday-Monday, February 25-26, 2024. I am co-organizer with Rob Katz (Indiana-Inianapolis) and Diane Kemker (visiting at DePaul). The CFP and details after the jump.

CALL FOR PAPERS/PRESENTATIONS

3rd Annual “Law vs. Antisemitism” Conference (February 25-26, 2024)

FIU College of Law, Miami, Florida

You are invited to submit a paper or presentation for the 3rd Annual Law vs. Antisemitism Conference. The Conference aims to provide a platform for researchers and practitioners to present research and developments on the intersection of law and antisemitism -- how law has manifested and perpetuated antisemitism, and how law has been and can be used to combat it.

Areas of interest for the conference include, but are not limited to, the following themes and topics.

  • The Working Definition of Antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), its legal implications, critics and competing definitions (e.g., Nexus, JDA)
  • Legal efforts in the U.S. and abroad to curtail expressions of antisemitism, e.g., by regulating hate speech, hate speech online, Holocaust denialism, and hate crimes
  • Laws that authorize religious expression in public spaces, laws that target Jews and other religious minorities, and generally applicable laws that burden Jewish observance, including abortion bans (in the context of Dobbs)
  • Legal responses to the Boycott-Divest-Sanctions (BDS) movement and other efforts to counter boycotts of Israel
  • Comparisons between antisemitism and bias and discrimination based on race (including African Americans and Asian Americans) gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, or other categories
  • Jews and whiteness, including white privilege, white nationalism, and white supremacy
  • Intersectional issues (Jews as a religious/ethnic group; LBGTQ Jews; Black Jews, Jewish women)
  • Official discrimination against Jews, both historic and contemporary, including bars to holding office, immigration restrictions, housing and zoning restrictions
  • Jews and antisemitism in the legal profession
  • Jews as a protected class under federal and state civil rights statutes
  • Jews and employment law, including employment discrimination, religious accommodations, and the ministerial exception
  • Jews and antisemitism in higher education, including anti-Jewish quotas, Jewish perspectives on affirmative action, Title VI and hostile environments, faculty and student expression and actions concerning Israel and Zionism
  • Law and the Holocaust, punishing the perpetrators, restitution for the victims
  • The legal construction of Jewish identity (e.g., defining who is a Jew for purposes of the Law of Return, the Nuremberg laws)
  • Case studies in antisemitism, e.g., the Dreyfus Affair, the Leo Frank trial
  • Translating research on law and antisemitism into practical strategies for countering antisemitism through law
  • Pedagogical approaches to teaching about the relationship between law and antisemitism

We invite scholars to reflect on the relationship between antisemitism, Jews, and the law, historically and in the contemporary environment, especially but not exclusively in the United States. We especially welcome papers and presentations that propose changes in law and policy with promise for ameliorating antisemitism and its effects. Please submit an Abstract of 300-500 words to [email protected]. Selected papers from the Conference will have an opportunity to be published in an upcoming issue of the FIU Law Review dedicated to the Symposium. (Questions may also be directed to [email protected].)

Proposals due September 1, 2023             

Presenters will be notified by October 1, 2023

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 14, 2023 at 09:31 AM in Religion, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Smith on "Christians and/as Liberals?"

My fellow "neo-medievalist" (!) Prof. Steve Smith (San Diego) has posted the article-version of a talk he gave at a Notre Dame conference last fall on "Liberalism, Christianity, and Constitutionalism." (Here is an op-ed version of the remarks I delivered at the same event.)  Here is Steve's abstract:

Recently, as part of a more general examination and criticism of liberalism, the relation between Christianity and liberalism has been much discussed. Some critics, sometimes associated with the label “integralism,” argue that Christianity and liberalism are fundamentally incompatible. Examining both consistencies and inconsistencies, this article argues to the contrary that liberalism may be, for now, for us, in our historical circumstances, the alternative that prudent Christians should prefer.

In the paper, Smith engages, inter alia, the versions of liberalism-criticism offered in recent years by Adrian Vermeule, Patrick Deneen, etc.  Here's something from the concluding pages (which, FWIW, seems right to me):

From this point of view, a properly governed and genuinely liberal regime might indeed be the best that a Christian should hope for, short of the end time when (Christians believe) the true King and Prince of Peace will rule. Liberalism might be, to borrow from Winston Churchill, the worst form of government except for all the others. In a genuinely liberal regime, people would be governed by ideals that at least derive from basic Christian beliefs, and by a regime that adopts as its central purpose protecting and promoting the ability of people (including Christians) to live and even to proselytize in accordance with their beliefs. At the same time, such a regime would not adopt the un-Christian and self-defeating tactics of using force and violence to enforce Christian beliefs that are efficacious only if sincerely and voluntarily embraced. The novelist Walker Percy, when asked why he was a Catholic, used to answer “What else is there?” Asked why he or she is a liberal, a Christian today might respond with the same question.

Posted by Rick Garnett on June 7, 2023 at 09:26 AM in Religion, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 19, 2023

Moreland on Liberalism and Christianity

Michael Moreland (Villanova) has posted on SSRN a new paper, "Contingency and Contestation in Liberalism and Christianity) which discusses (among other things) the presentations at a conference last fall at Notre Dame Law School on Liberalism and Christianity.  Prawfs participating included Amy Sepinwell, Andy Koppelman, Brandon Paradise, Kathleen Brady, Steven Smith, and Nathan Chapman.  Also discussed are recent works by Adrian Vermeule and Patrick Deneen.  Here's Michael's abstract:

The essays in this Symposium engage in recurring sets of issues, and here I wish to highlight four of them: (1) the relationship between liberalism and theological traditions; (2) the historically contingent and contested accounts of how liberalism and Christianity have developed over centuries in a relationship that has varied from conciliatory to hostile and what implications that account has for the history of ideas; (3) debates in legal scholarship that are illuminated by posing broader questions about liberalism, Christianity, and constitutionalism, and in particular the relationship of liberalism to different social forms, including religious institutions; (4) the renewed interest in the relationship between liberalism and Christianity in light of a new generation of critics of liberalism, whether Catholic integralists or other types of anti-liberalism, and the question—posed forcefully at the end of Steven Smith’s paper—of if not liberalism, then what else?

Michael does, I think, a great job of capturing the richness of the conversation.  [I presented at the symposium, but didn't (mea culpa!) produce a law-review article.  Here is a short version of my presentation, "Why Liberalism and Constitutionalism Need Christianity."]

Posted by Rick Garnett on May 19, 2023 at 09:18 AM in Religion, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Exploring Law Through a Christian Lens" at the Legal Vocation Fellowship

Lawprawf John Inazu (WUSTL) has a Substack.  (Recommended!)  His latest entry describes a 4-day event, part of a year-plus program that he's designed (and in which I participate), called the Legal Vocation Fellowship.  Here's a bit from John's report:

This past week, I hosted a three-day conference for the Legal Vocation Fellowship (LVF), a fifteen-month cohort experience for early career Christian attorneys. During our time together, we explored how Christians might think about the practice of law as a vocation with discussion-based lectures from five law professors: Rick Garnett (Notre Dame), Ruth Okediji (Harvard), Lisa Schiltz (St. Thomas), David Skeel (Penn), and me. We covered a wide range of readings, including selections from Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Kuyper, and MacIntyre, as well as some biblical texts.

On Thursday evening, LVF held a public dialogue titled “Redeeming Law” at Washington University School of Law. The dialogue explored connections between Christianity and the law and featured Professors Okediji, Schiltz, and Skeel, moderated by Professor Garnett.

Read John's account.  It was a really affirming and rewarding experience. Among other things, I got to re-read, and talk to smart young lawyers about, After Virtue!  And -- I cannot resist -- here's a shot of the five faculty participants:

LVF

Posted by Rick Garnett on May 19, 2023 at 08:52 AM in Religion, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 17, 2023

A Jewish NBA star

NBA star Domantas Sabonis of the Sacramento Kings is converting to Judaism. He and his Jewish wife keep Kosher and Passover and observe Shabbat (within the confines of an NBA season).

This could be interesting. I think Sabonis is, right now, the third-best Jewish NBA player in history, behind Dolph Schayes and Amar'e Stoudemire (converted in retirement but his career counts as "Jewish" under the Steve Yeager/Joe Horlen Principle). Sabonis is in his seventh year in the league, has made three All-Star teams and should be All-NBA this season. And it could be fun to watch him hopefully stay healthy and climb that ladder. After all, Schayes could not play in today's NBA and Stoudemire struggled with injuries the last five years of his career.

Domantas is the son of Soviet legend Arvydas Sabonis who played seven excellent seasons in the NBA, but whose best years were lost behind the Iron Curtain. Here is a fun story about Arvydas and his connection to legendary LSU coach Dale Brown.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 17, 2023 at 09:12 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Old anti-Semitism and current anti-Semitism

Dara Horn, who has a book and podcast about how people think and talk about dead Jews, argues in The Atlantic that focusing on Holocaust education makes current anti-Semitism worse. The piece is long, but here is a money quotation:

One problem with using the Holocaust as a morality play is exactly its appeal: It flatters everyone. We can all congratulate ourselves for not committing mass murder. This approach excuses current anti-Semitism by defining anti-Semitism as genocide in the past. When anti-Semitism is reduced to the Holocaust, anything short of murdering 6 million Jews—like, say, ramming somebody with a shopping cart, or taunting kids at school, or shooting up a Jewish nonprofit, or hounding Jews out of entire countries—seems minor by comparison.

And she closes thus:

I want to mandate this for every student in this fractured and siloed America, even if it makes them much, much more uncomfortable than seeing piles of dead Jews does. There is no empathy without curiosity, no respect without knowledge, no other way to learn what Jews first taught the world: love your neighbor. Until then, we will remain trapped in our sealed virtual boxcars, following unseen tracks into the future.

I serve on a Temple committee working on anti-Semitism programming. In choosing (for this year) to do a program for Yom Hashoah, we had a form of this conversation. Modern U.S. anti-Semitism, however much on the rise and however bad, is unlikely to lead to a repeat of the Holocaust. How we speak, educate, and push back against modern U.S. anti-Semitism should reflect that.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 4, 2023 at 07:59 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 19, 2022

What if "You've Got Mail," but Jewish?

In considering whether When Harry Met Sally . . . is a Jewish movie, I argued no one would believe so if you replaced Billy Crystal with Tom Hanks--and get You've Got Mail. Behold Hanukkah on Rye, the 2022 Hallmark Chanukkah movie that earns such Hallmark-high praise as weirdly good and terribly sweet.

At some level, I have the same complaints I level at all of these movies--they place Chanukkah at the center of the adult (as opposed to kid) Jewish lifecycle and calendar and ascribe the holy day a force it does not have for most Jewish adults. Adults in these stories mark the year and their lives by Chanukkah. So from last year's Eight Gifts of Hanukkah:

    • A Jewish contractor tells his Jewish client that construction on her optometry office-a business with no discernible connection to Judaism or the holiday--will "be done by the Eighth Night of Chanukkah."

     • That client's ex wants to get back together because "maybe it's the holiday, but I have been taking stock of my life." Umm, we have a month plus ten days devoted to that, nowhere close to this time of year.

    • A family gathers for the first night to light candles, etc., then the child in the family asks whether she can "unwrap her Chanukkah presents"--as if anyone in a real conversation in that context would need the adjective. OK, that may just be bad writing, but it illustrates how these movies find it necessary to hit everyone over the head with the fact that these people are Jewish.

Although these recent movies have included Jewish actors and crew, they continue to present Chanukkah as "Jewish Christmas"--that most wonderful time of year when we gather we family, do not want to be alone, and make a lifetime of memories that guide us through life.

HoR does not suffer from those problems because it is not an original story. It is a Jewified You've Got Mail, with identifiably Jewish characters played by Jewish actors and set within the eight days of Chanukkah. The timing sort-of makes a little sense because the story revolves around latkes and a secret latke recipe, although it still centers Chanukkah as the time of year where Jews gather, take stock of life, long to find love, etc. Anyway, Jacob, the fourth-generation operator of LA-based deli Zimmers, relocates to New York to open a new location on the Lower East Side; Zimmers is known for combining old-time Jewish deli with modern takes and a wider menu. Molly is preparing to take over Gilbert's, her family's fourth-generation, very traditional, but secretly struggling, deli in that neighborhood--if she only can figure out how to make a good egg cream (hint: stir the chocolate into the milk before spritzing the seltzer). Meanwhile, their respective bubbes sign them up for a mysterious New York-based matchmaking service in which people write handwritten letters to a pseudonymous match ("David" and "Beth") that a courier collects and delivers. Multi-generational family dynamics appear to center the  final act.

Some non-Jewish-focused spoilers on HoR after the jump; if you do not want to know how the movie ends, stop reading.

I will leave with this point. I can give Hallmark credit for wanting to depict Jews at Christmas, the only people in the Hallmark Cinematic Universe who want to stay in The Big City. But then tell a somewhat realistic story of American Jews. If it wants a December-based Jewish-American rom-com, set it at one of the Matzah Balls in many cities on Christmas--events designed for young Jewish singles to meet. Or at a Christmas-day Chinese restaurant comedy show. Importantly, neither story has anything to do with Chanukkah--which may be over or not have begun on December 25; each is about how Jewish-Americans make a unique culture in the larger society. If Hallmark insists on  a Jewish-holy-day-themed story, set it at Passover or Yamim Noraim--the days that matter on the Jewish calendar. Otherwise there are better Jewish rom-coms that need not squeeze into a short holiday.

OK, now the spoilers. What I find interesting about HoR as a riff (generously) on YGM--the movie corrects the two things people find unrealistic and arguably problematic about the source material.

As in YGM, Jacob figures out that "Beth" is Molly and tries to use it to his advantage, although not as manipulatively. YGM ends with that reveal and she acts it happily without thinking more about. In HoR, Molly learns about this about 20 minutes before the end, and is (rightfully) pissed off--he was dishonest with her and used that information to his advantage. Yes, the advantage was love, but still. It takes awhile and several different conversations with different people to bring her down from the point.

Unlike YGM, Zimmers does not put Gilberts out of business as Fox Books (inevitably) crushed the independent bookstore. There is something hinkey in YGM's story of "you destroyed my multi-generational family business and put me out of work, but I am in love with you" story. HoR changes that because despite its obvious political conservatism, Hallmark hates capitalism. Zimmers is not a franchising behemoth; it remains family-owned, just with a less-traditional approach. Jacob helps Molly (something Tom Hanks never did for Meg Ryan); he tries to convince his family to find a new location and he works with Molly on a bunch of Chanukkah-themed promotions at Glberts. Finally, the families learn of an historical connection and end the story by combining businesses in New York (in a way that would undermine both in real life--again, I do not think Hallmark understands capitalism).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 19, 2022 at 01:10 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Jewish baseball update

Max Fried finished second in NL Cy Young voting, finishing far behind the Marlins' Sandy Alcantara, who won all first-place votes. Fried becomes the third Jewish pitcher not named Koufax to finish top-two in Cy Young voting (along with Steve Stone's 1980 win and Joe Horlen's 1967 second-place finish).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 17, 2022 at 08:57 AM in Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 03, 2022

The Fried Curse?

A potential Jews-in-Baseball moment on the horizon this week.

The Braves lead the Mets by two games in the NL East with three games to play; the Braves' magic number is one. The Braves also own the tiebreaker--if the teams finish tied, the Braves win the division. But suppose the Mets win the next two games and the Braves lose the next two; the teams are tied entering the final game of the season, to be played at 4:10 p.m. on Wednesday--Yom Kippur.* Braves ace Max Fried would be scheduled to pitch and would be the guy the Braves want in a seeming must-win game. Will he pitch? And if he does, can he overcome the Koufax Curse?

[*] It could be a very Jewish game. The Marlins feature two Jewish relief pitchers--Jake Fishman and Richard Bleier.

Unsurprisingly, I am not a fan of MLB's bloated post-season. But I do like that it set the system to incentivize teams to win the division. The NL East winner gets a first-round bye and will not play until next Tuesday or Wednesday. The loser plays a best-of-3 series this weekend, then would face the 110-win (with three games left) Dodgers in the next round. A team may want to use its best pitcher in this game. If they win, he can be fully rested to start Game 1 after the bye. If they lose, he misses the short weekend series. Will Fried be the man, even on Yom Kippur day?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 3, 2022 at 03:01 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 08, 2022

Playing on Tisha B'Av

While Jewish baseball fans focus on who plays or does not play on Yom Kippur and the Koufax Curse,Tisha B'Av (commemorating the destruction of both Temples and all other pre-Holocaust tragedies to befall the Jewish People*) presents the pardigm Jewish holy day for which most Jewish-American baseball fans do not care whether anyone sits out.

[*] The Holocaust is marked by Yom Ha'Shoah, which is set near Israel Independence Day and Israel Memorial Day. Many Orthodox Jews, particularly Chasidim, fold Holocaust commemoration into Tisha B'Av. Jewish scholars debate whether the Holocaust is an extraordinary event or one of many great historic tragedies.

Until now. Tisha 'Av ran from sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday. Here are the results.

Saturday Evening:

• Alex Bregman (3B, Astros). 1-for-4 with a double and run scored (albeit meaningless in the ninth inning of a 4-0) game. Astros lose 4-1.

• Max Fried (P, Braves). 6 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs (2 earned), 5 strikeouts. Part of the error that allowed two runs to score. Smacked his head on the field trying to make a play. Braves lose 6-2, swept in double-header, fall 5.5 games behind Mets in NL East.

• Rowdy Tellez (1B, Brewer): 1-for-2 after entering game in 6th inning. Brewers lose 7-5.

Sunday Afternoon:

• Bregman: 0-for-3. Astros lose 1-0

• Scott Effross (P, Yankees: 1 inning, 3 hits, 3 earned runs (that put game out of reach). Yankees lose 12-9.

• Joc Pederson (OF, Giants): 1-for-2. Giants win 6-4

• Garrett Stubbs (C, Phillis): (Rare start): 1-for-5 with a run scored. Phillies win 13-1.

• Tellez: 0-for-3 with a walk. Brewers lose 2-1

 

So Tisha B'Av looks a lot like Yom Kippur: Teams lose (2-6), Jewish players, especially pitchers, do anywhere from badly to not-so-great. I sense a pattern.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 8, 2022 at 07:16 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Tacky, if not offensive

The Dodgers will unveil a statue of Sandy Koufax at Dodger Stadium--in a game beginning at 4:15 Saturday.

Koufax was not religiously observant and he played on Shabbat. And this is not Jewish-American Heritage Day; the Dodgers are honoring a historically great Dodger who means something to all Dodger fans. That said, Koufax's Jewishness is part of his outsided legacy, much as Jackie Robinson's race is part of his legacy. The Dodgers must know he has unique meaning to a segment of their fans and to a segment who are not Dodger fans but who revere Koufax because of what he meant to American Jewry. To schedule this event in a way that excludes a small portion of those fans and ignores the symbolism of his Jewishness reflects, at the very least, a lack of thought.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 16, 2022 at 12:29 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 02, 2022

For Shavuot, exploring the baseball records of post-retirement Jews-by-Choice

Shavuot begins at sundown Saturday. We commemorate receipt of Torah at Sinai--the point at which we all "became" Jewish--and we celebrate Jews-by-Choice by reading the Book of Ruth.

To mark the festival, I published an essay in The Forward considering the records and achievements of Joe Horlen and Steve Yeager, who converted to Judaism in retirement. The question is whether they should "count" as "Jewish" players and whether their records and achievements should count as "Jewish" in telling the history of Jews in baseball.

I had this idea in the fall. Some readers responded to my piece on the most-Jewish World Series by arguing that the '72 Series--in which Horlen, Ken Holtzman, and Mike Epstein played for the A's--was the first Series in which more than two Jews appeared. And if Horlen counts, so must Steve Yeager and his four World Series homers. I held the piece until now, timed to Shavuot and the celebration of conversion.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 2, 2022 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Working and playing on Shabbat

There Orthodox Jewish athletes have entered the Jews-in-sports conversation. Ryan Turrell was the star of some good Yeshiva basketball teams and has declared for the NBA draft; pitcher Jacob Steinmetz (coincidentally, the son of Yeshiva's basketball coach) plays in the Arizona Diamondbacks organizations; and pitcher-turned-catcher Elie Kligman plays at Wake Forest. Each hopes to make the top level of their sports as Shabbat-observant Jews.

What does having Orthodox Jews in The Show entail? According to reports, Steinmetz and Turrell plan to play on Shabbat, while avoiding driving to the game. One commentator sees this as a wise compromise and the evolution of full Jewish participation in American life, in which Jews need not choose between their identities as "Americans" and "Jews."

But how does this square the law of Shabbat, in which we can neither work nor play (barring the workaround they found for Hank Greenberg on Rosh Hashanah in 1934)? Do rabbis apply some sort of "necessity" principle--these players cannot pursue these activities, and thus use the gifts Hashem has bestowed upon them, without this workaround? An everyday baseball player who cannot play on Shabbat is guaranteed to miss about 35 games, almost 20 % of the season; no team could afford to miss a key player for that much of the season. And what might Steinmetz do on Yom Kippur, when (unlike Shabbat) most American Jews take at least a partial day off? It would be ironic if millions of less-observant Jews (and the occasional less-observant Jewish player) take the day off and attend synagogue on Yom Kippur, while a player who follows more of Jewish law and ritual in his daily life takes the mound. Not worried about being a role model for American Jews, he need only worry about the Koufax Curse.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 3, 2022 at 08:49 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 24, 2022

Which Jews? (Updated)

This Wall Street Journal essay by Mark Oppenheimer on rising antisemitism has generated some heat. The basic argument is that modern antisemitism in America targets the "shrinking minority of Jews who regularly do Jewish things in Jewish spaces"--attend synagogue or Jewish schools, shop at kosher markets, wear Jewish clothing, etc. But "for people who are Jewish but don’t do Jewish things, the U.S. is less oppressive than ever," as "gentlemen's agreement" antisemitism excluding Jews from neighborhoods, schools, clubs, etc., are "artifacts pf the past."

1) Some accuse Oppenheimer of victim-blaming, of telling that minority to stop doing Jewish things in Jewish spaces so as to avoid being targeted. That is not a fair reading. He is not telling anyone to stop attending these spaces. Quite the opposite--he  ends the piece by praising those who regard Jewish education or praying with fellow Jews as worth the risk. He was not blaming the "Jews who Jew it" or telling them to stop. He was making the point that the new American antisemitism is complicated--rather than an across-the-board societal phenomenon affecting all Jews equally, it is isolated and individualized.

2) Oppenheimer's premise is questionable on its terms. Charlottesville targeted all Jews, not only those who wear kippot and shop in kosher markets. Reports of recent antisemitic incidents seem to target Jews because they are Jewish while operating in secular spaces (although many of these overlap with Israel). Over the weekend, fliers were thrown in front of houses in Miami Beach and Surfside linking Jews to COVID and evil vaccinations (listing the Jews in the CDC, HHS, etc.); similar fliers have been distributed other places. No word on how they picked the houses. Was it random homes in two heavily Jewish towns? Did they look for mezzuzot? And is a mezzuzah "Jewing it," akin to wearing a yarmulke or is it akin to walking through life as Josh Goldberg? He may be right that violence seems to target the obviously Jewish. But a lot of antisemitism is non-violent.

3) The argument conflates institutional (or systemic) and individual antisemitism, so I think the base of his argument is flawed. He compares individual antisemitism, a lot of which is directed at Jewish spaces, with institutional or systemic antisemitism in secular spaces, which he argues no longer exists. But those are unique situations in which regular" Jews and "Jews who Jew it" may not be so different. Gentlemen's-agreement antisemitism in schools, clubs, law firms, and businesses appears to be an artifact of the past for all Jews--universities do not have quotas on Jewish students, regardless of level of observance. Meanwhile, if we focus on individual antisemitism, many Jews of all stripes have been targets  in many spaces. His argument might work if we compare violent antisemitism. High-profile violence appears to have been limited to "obvious" Jews. But that is a narrower and distinct argument.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 24, 2022 at 10:41 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

It's not just baseball

A New York Magazine story on Yeshiva men's basketball, which is ranked # 1 in the nation in D-III, has won 50 straight games dating back three seasons, and is blowing teams out. The undefeated Maccabees reached the D-III Sweet 16 when the tournament shut down in March 2020. They played only seven games last year before the season shut down. It is a great what-if for the school that COVID upended what could have been an historic run.

Ryan Turrell is the team's star, a mid-to-mid-major D-I talent who went to Yeshiva because he did not believe he could reconcile his Jewish practices with playing D-I basketball. Turrell hopes to be the first Orthodox Jewish player in the NBA and the counterpart to two young Orthodox baseball players (one in the minors, one playing at Wake). Lost in the story is perspective on whether Turrell's talents translate to the next level. There are no D-III grads in the NBA; the closest is Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson, who began his career at D-III Williams, but transferred to Michigan after a freshman season in which he earned All-America honors. Turrell's lone D-I commitment was to Army, which is not a typical path to the NBA (David Robinson does not count--he grew six inches between 12th grade and 2d year at Navy). The likely make-or-break for Turrell is whether he is a good enough shooter.

Fun times.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 22, 2021 at 11:40 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 25, 2021

Welcome to the Velt Serye

In The Forward, as we prepare for the most Jewish World Series in history, talking about Jews playing rather than sitting out. Max Fried's expected Game 2 start, in which Joc Pederson should be the Braves DH and Alex Bregman will bat third for the Astros, is the one to watch.

Update: Should we be concerned that this most-Jewish Series pits ethically compromised teams? Well, if our comparator is 1959 (the prior 3-Jew Series), it is worth noting that the Go-Go Sox stole signs. Their general manager, who knew? Hank Greenberg. Turns ourt some of Greenberg's championship teams in Detroit also stole signs.

Addendum: Garrett Stubbs, the Astros' third-string catcher, is not on the World Series roster. So that leaves us with three Jews on rosters, matching 1959, but all will play.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 25, 2021 at 01:08 PM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Why playing baseball on Yom Kippur matters

My new essay in The Forward explores why we care about playing baseball on Yom Kippur more than we care about playing on other, arguably more important, days on the Hebrew Calendar. This began life as part of my empirical study of Jews playing on Yom Kippur; it was removed for length and I decided to break it out as stand-alone piece for a non-academic audience.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 31, 2021 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

First Amendment fieldwork in Pleasant Grove

Last week, I happened to pass through Pleasant Grove, Utah.  First Amendment types will recall that, back in 2009, the Supreme Court issued a (unanimous) ruling in a case called Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, which had to do with government-speech and public-forum doctrines, and with a dispute over the City's refusal to put up a monument containing the "Seven Aphorisms" of Summum in its "Pioneer Park".  The City had accepted, the challengers noted, a privately donated monument of the Ten Commandments.  Well, because this is a full-service law-prawf-blawg, here is a picture of the Commandments, in the Park:

Pleasant Grove

There are, outside the photo, some other various monuments and plaques, and also some old-timey, Utah-frontier-era buildings/reproductions.

(For what it's worth, if you're in Utah, I recommend getting into the Wasatch over wandering through suburbs looking for SCOTUS relics.)

 

Posted by Rick Garnett on July 20, 2021 at 11:47 AM in First Amendment, Religion, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Best Jewish teammates?

Joc Pederson was traded from the Cubs (as part of an impending firesale by a cheap-and-mismanaged organization) to the Braves, where he teams with lefty starter Max Fried. In their first game together last night, Pederson went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer and Fried struck out seven in seven shutout innings (and had three hits, raising his season average to .333).

Are Fried and Pederson the best pair of Jewish players on one team? What other teams have had two (or more) top-tier Jewish players at once? Going backwards in history:

    • Third-baseman Alex Bregman and catcher Garrett Stubbs have been teammates on the Astros for most of the past three seasons. Bregman is a star and MVP runner-up in 2019, but has been hurt much of the past two seasons. Stubbs is a back-up and rarely plays.

    • Outfielder Danny Valencia and pitcher Richard Bleier were teammates on the 2018 Orioles. Bleier was an effective situational reliever, going 3-0, striking out 4 batters per nine innings. Valencia played in 78 games in his final season in the Majors. And the Orioles went 47-115.

    • Kevin Youkilis and Gabe Kapler were teammates on the Red Sox from 2004-06. Both were bench players for the first two seasons. Youkilis became a starter in 2006, but Kapler played in only 72 games.

    • Ken Holtzman and Elliott Maddox (African American, converted to Judaism) were teammates with the Yankees for part of 1976, a season in which the team reached the World Series.  Holtzman was part of the starting rotation and won 9 games, but was on the downside of his career; Maddox was a spot outfielder.

    • On the 1972 World Champion A's, Holtzman won 19 games and made the All Star team, while Mike Epstein was the starting first baseman who hit 26 home runs and garnered some MVP votes. In 1973, Holtzman won 21 games and made the All Star team, but Epstein was run out of town after playing in 118 games.

    • The Dodgers had pitcher Larry Sherry from 1958-63; his brother Norm, a catcher, from 1959-'62; and a lefty named Koufax. Norm was a career backup. Sherry was primarily a reliever, although an effective one; he won 14 games in 1960 and 7 games and World Series MVP in 1959. Koufax did not become KOUFAX until 1961, at which point both Sherry brothers were less key players.

So I think the Holtzman/Epstein duo, although it lasted only one year, is the one to beat, accounting for team and individual performance. Pederson has not hit well this season, but he still has power and will be the everyday right-fielder for a team trying to get back into the pennant race. Fried has been inconsistent this season, but has won his last two games and is the best pitcher on the staff. Can they (and the team) get hot in the second half and pass them?

Did I miss other good examples?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 18, 2021 at 02:21 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 26, 2021

Playing baseball on Shabbat

In an early draft of my article on Jewish players and Yom Kippur, I included a discussion of "why Yom Kippur," among all other parts of the Hebrew calendar. In particular Shabbat, which, Armin Rosen argued in the essay that started me down this path, is more sacred than either of the High Holy Days. I considered what might happen if a player would not play on Shabbat--at a minimum, it raises practical difficulties for a non-pitcher to have to know he must miss 36 games (22 % of the games) before the season even begins. At the same time, I think a team could and would accommodate that player--especially a star--to its financial benefit. (I pulled this section for length, although I may try to do something with it as a stand-alone piece).

A number of publications and people are telling the story of Elie Kligman. Kligman is a high-school senior from Las Vegas, pitcher and power-hitting infielder who is transitioning to catching; he is ranked as the 14th-best high school player in the state. He also is Shomer and has never played on Friday nights or Saturdays; most leagues and tournaments have accommodated him, at the urging of his lawyer/agent father. Kligman is talking about playing big-time college baseball and hopes to make the Majors. And he is already talking about not playing on Shabbat if he gets there. Part of the reason he is switching positions is that catchers often get at least one day off each week because of the physical toll; his day off could be Shabbat.

Before getting too excited about the next "Mickey Mantle bred on blintzes and gefilte fish" (as was written about 1970s slugger Mike "Super Jew" Epstein), I want to know more about just how good he is. Who is recruiting him and how good a prospect is he? The story says there are a "handful" of college coaches interested in him, but will not say who or what level. A scout says he could make an "impact" for a Power-5 conference team in a year or two. And a statement such as this--"Based on talent and desire, Kligman is good enough to realistically entertain his dream of playing Major League Baseball, or at least top level college ball"--means nothing. Top-level college baseball is roughly equivalent to high-A minors, a long way from The Show.

Like every other Jewish baseball fan, I want this story to be true and I hope Kligman makes it and 5-10 years from now I can write about his team switching their Friday home games to 2:15 starts. But at the moment, the story about his MLB prospects is, at best, incomplete.

Story published just in time for Shabbat.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 26, 2021 at 05:33 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 07, 2020

Joel Harrison on "Post-Liberal Religious Liberty"

Dr. Joel Harrison, of the University of Sydney, has a new book with Cambridge University Press, called Post-Liberal Religious Liberty: Forming Communities of Charity.  (Get yours here.)  I'm honored that he engages -- critically, but fairly and carefully -- my own church-state writing.  I asked him to supply Prawfs with an "extended blurb", to give readers a sense of the argument.  Here it is:

Post-Liberal Religious Liberty: Forming Communities of Charity (Cambridge University Press, 2020)

Why should we care about religious liberty? What is religious liberty meant to protect? In Post-Liberal Religious Liberty: Forming Communities of Charity (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Joel Harrison argues that religious liberty protects the quest for true religion. It facilitates the free creation of communities of solidarity, fraternity, and charity.

This argument challenges the increasingly popular liberal egalitarian account of religious liberty.  According to this account, found in the writing of scholars like Ronald Dworkin and Cécile Laborde, as well as case law, religious liberty is a subset of or signifier for a broader category of liberty, protecting personal autonomy or authenticity.  Harrison traces how this has two consequences: it treats as suspect any claim to consider religion, traditionally understood, as especially important; and it leads to the claim that religious groups and persons should increasingly be subject to state law, where the law reflects the claimed autonomy interests of individuals.

Harrison argues that challenging this account requires challenging how liberalism fundamentally understands religion, the ends of a political community, and the role of civil authority.  Religion on this understanding is cast as private, and increasingly associated with individual self-definition or even consumption. Political order is cast as secular, with civil authority defined by a logic claimed to be autonomous of religion: negotiating and furthering individual rights-claims. However, this differentiation between religion and the secular rests on a narrative of secularisation that, Harrison argues, is in reality a half-concealed theology.

In contrast, Post-Liberal Religious Liberty recovers a different theological and political vision. It draws especially from Augustine of Hippo, a subsequent tradition of associational thinking, and contemporary post-liberal thinkers like John Milbank.  Harrison argues that civil authority should be understood as an arm for pursuing human flourishing, right relationship, or the virtuous life, one complementary with and responsive to the Church. This requires a commitment to religion – the love of God and neighbour – as central to the ends of a political community.  Such claims are challenged, in whole or in part, even within Christian thought. Harrison contrasts this argument with the writing of three prominent modern Christian scholars: John Finnis, Richard Garnett, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. However, he argues that only such a commitment makes sense of the liberty of plural religious groups. It points to a good – our common good – that religious liberty serves.

(Available here, discount code: PLRL2020; or via Cambridge Core online)

Posted by Rick Garnett on September 7, 2020 at 09:37 AM in Religion, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Bad Legal Takes does Talmud

There are reports of protesters in D.C. trying to keep media from recording the demonstrations, including by assigning "minders" to keep reporters from getting too close and using open umbrellas to keep them from seeing.

In response to a reminder that they are in a public space, this legal scholar argues that "by using umbrellas to surround themselves they are creating a quasi-private space for themselves and if in that atmosphere say they do not wish to be filmed they could win a lawsuit."

(Almost certainly) unknowingly, this genius invoked the concept of the eiruv, which is the subject of the current tractate in Daf Yomi (the 7 1/2-year cycle of reading one page of Talmud a day). An eiruv establishes a broader private domain in which Jewish people can carry on Shabbat by connecting multiple private domains into a single private domain through a series of markers and partitions. The Talmud establishes specific and complex rules as to what is sufficient to establish an eiruv. I am quite sure a raised umbrella does not qualify.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 6, 2020 at 03:36 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Justice Kagan’s Warring Views on the Religion Clauses

Today (Wednesday) the Supreme Court decided two cases involving questions of law and religious rights: Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru (No. 19-267, consolidated with 19-348), which addressed the scope of the First Amendment’s “ministerial exception,” and Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania (No. 19-431, consolidated with 19-454), which determined the legality of regulations exempting employers from ACA-mandated contraceptive coverage for religious reasons. Justice Kagan joined the majority in both—in full in Our Lady and in the judgment in Little Sisters. But in what appears as case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, a footnote in her concurring opinion in Little Sisters misreads the majority opinion she joined in full in Our Lady. (Of course, she could be putting forth a revisionist reading.)

Our Lady grounds the so-called “ministerial exception” clearly in the broader doctrine of church autonomy. That doctrine, supported by the Religion Clauses, “protect[s] the right of churches and other religious institutions to decide matters ‘of faith and doctrine’ without government intrusion.” (Slip op. at 10) (quoting Hosanna-Tabor, 565 U.S., at 186). Further, “[s]tate interference in that sphere would obviously violate the free exercise of religion, and any attempt by government to dictate or even to influence such matters would constitute one of the central attributes of an establishment of religion. The First Amendment outlaws such intrusion.” (10).

Our Lady observed that “[t]he independence of religious institutions in matters of ‘faith and doctrine’ is closely linked to independence in what we have termed ‘matters of church government.’” (10) (quoting 565 U. S., at 186). The First Amendment “protect[s] [religious institution’s] autonomy with respect to internal management decisions that are essential to the institution’s central mission.” (11). What is more, “a component of this autonomy is the selection of the individuals who play certain key roles.” (11). The Court notes that the “‘ministerial exception’ was based on this insight.” (11). And the “constitutional foundation” for the Court first recognizing this exception in Hosanna-Tabor “was the general principle of church autonomy”—“independence in matters of faith and doctrine and in closely linked matters of internal government.” (12). To support this, the Court notes three earlier church autonomy cases, all of which had to do with the control of church property (though in some, but not all, “the authority and appointment of a bishops” was also at issue).

In other words, the ministerial exception is a sub-part (“component”) of the First Amendment’s church autonomy doctrine. It is sufficient to violate the church autonomy doctrine by violating the ministerial exception, but it is not necessary. One can still violate the doctrine even if the exception does not apply. Put another way, within the larger circle of the church autonomy is a smaller circle of the ministerial exception. Justice Kagan joined all of this without comment.

Now turn to her concurrence in Little Sisters. There she claims that “there is no general constitutional immunity, over and above the ministerial exception, that can protect a religious institution from the law’s operation.” (Kagan Concurrence at 3 n.1). Yet how can this be squared with Our Lady? There the Court clearly stated that the ministerial exception is a “component” of the church autonomy doctrine. It is not the entire doctrine. But Justice Kagan wants the “component” to swallow the hole. To put it differently, in Little Sisters Justice Kagan sees the ministerial exception circle and the church autonomy circle as having perfect overlap.

Actually, that may be understating it. Justice Kagan appears to view the ministerial exception as being the only way that the Religion Clauses “can protect a religious institution from the law’s operation” via a “general constitutional immunity.” But as I have noted earlier on this blog, that runs smack dab into Trinity Lutheran’s footnote 4, which notes categorical protection from laws or government actions that, among other things, specifically target religion as such. Justice Kagan joined Trinity Lutheran’s footnote 4 in full as well.

These warring views do not appear reconcilable. I guess we will have to see in future cases which version of the First Amendment Justice Kagan will endorse.

Posted by James Phillips on July 8, 2020 at 07:10 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Religion | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Espinoza's Recasting of Trinity Lutheran Raises Religious Liberty Questions

On its surface, Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue (No. 18-1195) appears to be a complete victory for religious liberty. A 5-4 majority held that discriminating on the basis of religious status in the context of school funding violated the Free Exercise Clause. As the majority declared, “once the a State decides to [subsidize private education], it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.” Slip op. 20. And the decision cast serious doubt on the discriminatory Blaine Amendments found in a majority of state constitutions. The outcome clearly belongs in the win column for Free Exercise Clause fans.

But perhaps more so than case outcomes, it is the doctrinal seeds down in the pages of the U.S. Reports that steer the course of the law. And the seeds sown in Espinoza raise unanswered questions for religious freedom. Specifically, Espinoza recasts a little discussed but significant point in Trinity Lutheran in such a way as to call into question the chances that some future religious discrimination claims will prevail.

First, a little conceptual background. The Court’s free exercise jurisprudence has three tiers of protection. In the lowest tier—laws deemed neutral and generally applicable under Employment Division v. Smith—the government must only satisfy rational basis (if even that), the least protective doctrinal test of the Court. Needlessly to say, free exercise challenges never win in this tier.

The middle tier of free exercise jurisprudence applies a strong version of strict scrutiny. The government must not only demonstrate that a law or action “advance[s] interests of the highest order,” but also that the law or action is “narrowly tailored in pursuit of those interests.” Slip op. 18 (cleaned up). Not surprisingly, government infringement of religious liberty “will survive strict scrutiny only in rare cases.” Lukumi, 508 U.S. at 546.

However, there is a third tier—the most protective—in the Court’s free exercise pantheon. Sometimes the Court is unwilling to engage in any balancing with government interests, so the state’s infringement of religious liberty is categorically barred. The ministerial exception is one example of this: once a religious organization demonstrates that someone is its minister, no government interest of any kind can authorize interference with the organization’s constitutional right to control its ministers. See Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and Sch. v. E.E.O.C., 565 U.S. 171, 181 (2012) (“Both Religion Clauses bar the government from interfering with the decision of a religious group to fire one of its ministers.”) See also id. at 196 (“When a minister who has been fired sues her church alleging that her termination was discriminatory, the First Amendment has struck the balance for us. The church must be free to choose those who will guide it on its way.”). No judicial balancing of government interests and free exercise freedoms required.

It is not just the ministerial exception that applies this categorical prohibition. Religious tests, whether for public office or otherwise, also trigger this categorical bar, with the Court grounding this prohibition in the Free Exercise Clause (admittedly the Test Oath Clause would do the same work regarding federal office). See Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495 (1961); Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. 565, 621 (2014) (Kagan, J., dissenting) (“[G]overnment, in its various processes and proceedings, imposes no religious tests on its citizens.”). No judicial balancing here either.

Finally, there is a third instance that gets tier-3 categorical protection: “government mechanisms, overt or disguised, designed to persecute or oppress a religion or its practices.” Lukumi, 508 U.S. at 547. Thus, “a law targeting religious beliefs as such is never permissible.” Trinity Lutheran, 137 S. Ct. at 2024 n.4 (emphasis added) (quoting Lukumi, 508 U.S. at 533). Strict scrutiny does not apply to such a law. Id. Rather, “[t]he Free Exercise Clause categorically prohibits government from regulating, prohibiting, or rewarding religious beliefs as such.” McDaniel v. Paty, 435 U.S. 618, 626 (1978) (plurality opinion) (emphasis added). And the Court has referred to this as a “rule.” Trinity Lutheran, 137 S. Ct. at 2024 n.4.

Chief Justice Roberts’s majority opinion in Trinity Lutheran recognized the existence of tier-3 protection, wherein the government is categorically prohibited from infringing religious liberty. While much attention has been paid to Trinity Lutheran’s footnote 3, it is footnote 4 that contains a real nugget. There Roberts declared on behalf of a majority of the Court that “[w]e have held that ‘a law targeting religious beliefs as such is never permissible.’” 137 S. Ct. at 2024 n.4 (quoting Lukumi, 508 U.S. at 533) (emphasis added). He also cites McDaniel v. Paty, 435 U.S. 618 (1978). But, he observes, “[w]e do not need to decide whether the condition Missouri imposes in this case falls within the scope of that rule, because it cannot survive strict scrutiny in any event.” In other words, in Trinity Lutheran, a state’s discrimination in funding based on religious status may fall under the categorical bar (tier 3) or it may fall under strict scrutiny (tier 2), but because it fails the lesser test (tier 2), the Court saw no need to decide which tier applied.

Now, fast forward to the Espinoza decision. Repeatedly, Chief Justice Roberts relies on Trinity Lutheran for something that case did not actually decide: that discriminating in public funding based on religious character triggers strict scrutiny—

  • Trinity Lutheran distilled these and other decisions to the same effect into the “unremarkable” conclu­sion that disqualifying otherwise eligible recipients from a public benefit “solely because of their religious character” imposes “a penalty on the free exercise of religion that trig­gers the most exacting scrutiny.” (quoting Trinity Lutheran, slip op., at 9-10). Slip op., at 8.
  • The Free Ex­ercise Clause protects against even “indirect coercion,” and a State “punishe[s] the free exercise of religion” by disqual­ifying the religious from government aid as Montana did here. Trinity Lutheran (slip op., at 10–11). Such status­ based discrimination is subject to “the strictest scrutiny.” (slip op., at 11). Slip op., at 11-12.
  • It is enough in this case to conclude that strict scrutiny applies under Trinity Lutheran because Montana’s no-aid provision discriminates based on religious status. Slip op., at 12.
  • [T]he[] dissents follow from prior separate writings, not from the Court’s decision in Trinity Lutheran or the decades of precedent on which it relied. These precedents have “repeatedly confirmed” the straightforward rule that we apply today: When otherwise eligible recipients are disqualified from a public benefit “solely because of their religious character,” we must apply strict scrutiny. Trinity Lutheran (slip op., at 6-10). Slip op. at 17.
  • Because the Montana Supreme Court applied the no-aid provision to discriminate against schools and parents based on the religious character of the school, the “strictest scru­tiny” is required. (quoting Trinity Lutheran, slip op., at 11). Slip op., at 18.

This is a re-characterization of Trinity Lutheran. That case saved for another day the question of whether that religious discrimination fell “within the scope of [the categorical] rule, because it c[ould not] survive strict scrutiny in any event.” 137 S. Ct. at 2024 n.4. But in Espinoza the Chief unequivocally cites Trinity Lutheran for the proposition that religious discrimination based on funding requires the application of strict scrutiny. Whether accidental or not, this is a revisionist reading. And this revisionist reading makes even less sense when Espinoza points out that “the infringement of religious liberty” there “is far more sweeping than the policy in Trinity Lutheran,” and “burdens not only religious schools but also the families whose children attend or hope to attend them.” Slip op., at 19.

This recasting of Trinity Lutheran has raises important questions for religious liberty down the road. For instance, is it no longer an open question as to whether specific targeting of religious status in the context of public funding fits under the rule of categorical prohibition (tier 3) or under strict scrutiny (tier 2)? After Espinoza, it certainly seems such discrimination fits under the latter. Though it is odd to answer that question by claiming it was decided by a previous case that refused to answer that question.

Likewise, what implications does Espinoza have for the scope of this categorical prohibition? Is it narrower? After Trinity Lutheran, the rule was that “a law targeting religious beliefs as such is never permissible.” Trinity Lutheran, 137 S. Ct. at 2024 n.4. And Trinity Lutheran relied on McDaniel, which declared that “[t]he Free Exercise Clause categorically prohibits government from regulating, prohibiting, or rewarding religious beliefs as such.” 435 U.S. at 626. After Espinoza, though, one has to wonder whether this “rule” now does not apply to the context of public funding? What about other contexts? Is Espinoza the start of a trend to narrow the scope of the categorical prohibition? Time will tell.

The devil is in the details, they say. It is especially so in doctrine. While Espinoza is at some level a gift for religious liberty, and one hates to look a gift horse in the mouth, some legal victories can contain a Trojan horse hidden in plain sight.

Posted by James Phillips on July 2, 2020 at 11:10 AM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Religion | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Testing the Koufax Curse

Last fall, I wrote about three Jewish players (Alex Bregman, Max Fried, and Joc Pederson) playing Division Series games on Yom Kippur, then offered tentative responses to the question posed by Armin Rosen of Tablet about why we focus so much on playing on Yom Kippur and no other days. Rosen also jokingly suggested that 2019 demonstrated the work of the Koufax Curse befalling players who fail to follow in Koufax's Yom Kippur footsteps.

In a draft paper on SSRN, I test the Koufax Curse by developing an explanation for our obsession with playing on Yom Kippur and by examining career statistics in Yom Kippur games by eighteen Jewish players, plus Rod Carew. This has been a fun piece to write. The abstract is after the jump. It emains a work in progress, and I welcome feedback.

October 8-9, 2019, the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, marked a unique moment in the history of baseball and American Judaism. Three Major League post-season games began between sundown Tuesday and sundown Wednesday. One team in each game featured a Jewish player as a star or significant contributor. Each Jewish player appeared in the game. Each team lost. One journalist labeled this result the "Koufax Curse" -- the curse of the Jewish player who plays on Yom Kippur, rather than following in the footsteps of Hall-of-Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, who did not pitch Game One of the 1965 World Series when it fell on the holy day.

This paper empirically tests the Koufax Curse. Looking at 18 Jewish Major Leaguers since 1966 (the year after Koufax's career-defining game), the paper charts how the players and their teams performed in games played during any part of Yom Kippur. It also examines statistics for Rod Carew, the Hall-of-Famer who is not Jewish but enjoys a unique familial and cultural connection to Judaism. From this, we can measure whether players or teams are haunted by the Koufax Curse. And whether Yom Kippur 5780 was an anomaly or reflects a broader trend.

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 13, 2020 at 01:54 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Think Yiddish, cast whoever

A controversy arose in the U.K. last year about casting non-Jewish actors in expressly Jewish roles in an expressly Jewish show called Falsettos (about a Jewish father who leaves his family for a man, just after the son's Bar Mitzvah).

The question has become relevant because of two television series about Jewish people dealing with Nazis in the U.S.: The Hunters, which I watched and hated, and The Plot Against America, David Simon's adaptation of Philip Roth's counter-factual novel about Charles Lindbergh being elected President in 1940 and unleashing a wave of anti-Semitism.

The Hunters cast Jewish actors (Josh Radnor, Saul Rubinek, Carol Kane, Jeannie Berlin, Rubinke's daughter) for most of the major Jewish roles. Al Pacino, playing the head Nazi hunter and Auschwitz survivor, was the exception (although, spoiler, it did not matter).

In the first episode of the companion podcast to Plot (beginning around the 14:00 mark), Simon discusses setting out to make the show with an entirely Jewish cast and crew . He changed direction when he recognized the need to work with the best people and the universality of the story of oppressed "others."

Thus, the father is played by Morgan Spector (half-Jewish) and his sister-in-law is played by Winona Ryder (half Jewish, strongly self-identifies). But the mother is played by Zoe Kazan (Greek from Turkey, granddaughter of someone compelled to name names before HUAC) and the older cousin is played by Anthony Boyle (Irish-Catholic from Belfast); Simon talks about how he convinced them to take on the roles because their (or their families') experiences are comparable to the Jewish experience. And John Turturro plays a rabbi, although Simon and co-host Peter Sagal agreed Tuturro had played so many Jewish characters in his career (Barton Fink, Herbert Stempel, Joey Knish) that he is basically Jewish.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 25, 2020 at 11:47 AM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Religion | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Capping off a year in a yarmulke

Sunday marked one-year (on the Western calendar) since the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Today marks one year since, in reaction, I began wearing a yarmulke.

So what have I learned after a year?

• While I said at the time I did not know how long it would last, I am happy to say I have no plans to change. My daughter's Bat Mitzvah was in January and we have leftovers to keep my head covered for another 25 years. The expression of Jewish community and the sense of humility before Hashem represented by the head covering (and awareness of it--I always feel it there) remain and I do not intend to give them up.

• Strangers become friendly. There is "The Nod" from other Jews, even more-observant Jews in tzitzit; several have struck up conversations in airport security lines. A person approached me on the street once to say "God bless you." And I cannot forget the Lyft driver in Boulder who wished me a "Happy Shabbat Shalom," earning high marks for effort.

• My students enjoy the many times it flies off during class.

• I continue to struggle with the idea that wearing a yarmulke means I must refrain from certain activities or at certain times--driving on Shabbat, eating non-kosher food, etc. My rabbi explained it by the concept of not leading others into sin--by eating at a certain restaurant or driving on Saturday afternoon, I send an erroneous signal to other Jewish people that it is ok to engage in those activities, which may cause them to do so. Others explain it as sending mixed signals to the world--how can this Jewish person do that?

The rabbi's solution is to wear a hat over the yarmulke when he eats in a non-kosher restaurant or drives on Saturday, which I do at times. Even if I do not refrain, I am conscious of engaging in certain conduct while wearing it. I did not order shrimp in a restaurant last week because I thought of how it would read to my (non-Jewish) companions. On the other hand, the principle seems under-inclusive: Why do these obligations attach to this expression of Jewish identity but not others; why does more-observant Jewry define the obligations that attach to different Jewish symbols. As I said, I have been thinking about this for a year and I do not believe I am closer to an answer. I mostly live my life as before, but with my head covered.

• I am conscious of walking into some truly non-Jewish spaces, such as my daughter's Episcopalian school. I am not conscious in "mixed" spaces. As I said, living my life as before, but with my head covered.

• I will be reading Torah at the weekly minyan in a few weeks. The rabbi chose the story of Joseph and his coat, which speaks to a piece of this--the idea of clothing and how we dress instilling humility. Or, in Joseph's case, not, prompting his brothers to throw him in a hole and sell him into slavery.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 30, 2019 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

On "Big Mountain Jesus" (again) . . . and also liberalism, the First Amendment, Dignitatis Humanae, etc.

I've posted a few times about the "Big Mountain Jesus" statue at Whitefish Ski Resort (click here for a picture).  And, the Supreme Court's pending case involving a war-memorial Cross in Maryland has brought back to public attention -- it's been about 15 years since the Court's pair of Ten Commandments cases -- the question of the First Amendment's implications for religious symbols, etc., in "public."

In the latest issue of First Things, I return to the "Big Mountain Jesus" controversy, and also speculate a bit about liberalism (as I understand it!), religious establishments, and other things.  Here is the SSRN abstract:

This paper, which was prepared for discussion at the May 2018 Dulles Colloquium, convened by the Institute for Public Life, engages current discussions and debates regarding the nature of “liberalism” and the content of “religious freedom.” It considers, specifically, whether a “liberal" political community may and/or should recognize or establish a religion, drawing on the Second Vatican Council's “Declaration on Religious Freedom.” And, it addresses the controversy surrounding “Big Mountain Jesus.”

 

 

Posted by Rick Garnett on March 28, 2019 at 12:18 PM in Religion, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Chapman, "Money for Missionaries"

Nathan Chapman (Georgia) has posted a fascinating new paper at SSRN.  It's called "Money for Missionaries:  Rethinking Establishment Clause History."  (He workshopped this paper a while back, at Notre Dame, and I learned a lot.)  Here's the abstract:

In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the Supreme Court stated two principles that continue to animate Establishment Clause doctrine. The first is that courts should look to founding-era history—especially the history of "religious assessments," or taxes used to fund churches—to interpret the Establishment Clause. The second is that, based on this history, the government may provide limited secular goods to religious schools, but the Establishment Clause prohibits the government from directly funding religious education.

What Everson ignored, and what subsequent legal scholarship has likewise overlooked, is that the founding-era government did directly fund religious education: from the Revolution to Reconstruction, the federal government partnered with Christian missionaries to "civilize" American Indians. Initially ad hoc, this practice was formalized with the Civilization Funds Act of 1819, which authorized the government to distribute $10,000 per year to "persons of good moral character" to educate and “civilize” the tribes. For over fifty years, the government funded Christian missionaries who incorporated religious instruction and worship into their curricula. Curiously, no one ever raised a constitutional objection.

This Article is the first to provide a thorough analysis of the government-missionary partnerships and to explore why no one objected to their constitutionality. The evidence strongly suggests eighteenth and nineteenth-century Americans supported them because of a shared view of social progress that merged Christianization, education, and civilization. They simply could not have imagined separating Christianity and education. This evidence reshapes the conventional narrative of the historical development of non-establishment norms in the United States, especially the centrality of the Jeffersonian “taxpayer conscience” objection to religious assessments.

This history also has important implications for Establishment Clause doctrine. The challenge is ascertaining a constitutional principle from a practice that itself went unquestioned. The history does, however, suggest that the government may directly fund general education, even when that education entails incidental voluntary religious instruction. This principle complements the theoretical norm of “substantive neutrality” and supports the Supreme Court’s current doctrinal trajectory of easing restrictions on government funding of religious education.

Posted by Rick Garnett on February 14, 2019 at 09:48 AM in Religion | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, December 17, 2018

"The End of a Walking Dead Doctrine?"

Here is my contribution to a symposium sponsored by the good folks at SCOTUSblog on the upcoming memorial-cross case.  Here are the opening grafs:

About four and a half years ago, here at SCOTUSblogcommenting on the Supreme Court’s then-recent decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, I noted that it had been a while since the justices “had shared with us their intuitions, impressions, aruspicies, and auguries – that is, what Justice Breyer calls their ‘legal judgment’ – in a clean-and-straightforward Establishment Clause case involving ‘religion in the public square.’” Well, they have been asked to do it again.

One of the questions presented in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association is “whether a 93-year-old memorial to the fallen of World War I is unconstitutional merely because it is shaped like a cross.” That the question is posed this way says a lot, but not much that is complimentary or edifying, about the state of First Amendment doctrine. After all, and obviously, the monument at issue in Bladensburg, Maryland’s Veterans Memorial Park does not just happen to be “shaped like” a cross any more than the name of California’s largest city just happens to “sound like” one of the titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is, in fact, a cross – a 40-feet-tall Latin cross that, for nearly a century, has recalled and honored 49 local soldiers who, as its original donors put it, “have not died in vain.” The memorial is constitutional not because its troubling resemblance may be excused but because – the lower court’s speculations about the semiotics of shrubbery-placement notwithstanding – it is not an “establishment of religion.” A judicial doctrine, precedent or “test” that says otherwise is, for that reason, unsound. . . . 

Stay tuned!

Posted by Rick Garnett on December 17, 2018 at 08:50 AM in Religion, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, November 08, 2018

I am Spartawitz or Wearing a yarmulke after Pittsburgh

I began wearing a yarmulke the Tuesday after the October murder of eleven Jews at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. I would have started sooner; the idea came to me almost immediately. But I wore a baseball hat on Sunday, so my head was covered. On Monday, I was late getting to work and forgot, as finding a head covering had not become my routine. I wore one to an inter-faith memorial service at my Reform temple near Miami on Monday evening, and it has remained.

This is new for me. I grew up in an unaffiliated Hebrew School that combined Conservative liturgy with a Reform commitment to justice; yarmulkes were reserved for services. I attended a public school district that was about 45% Jewish, but not one kid in my class wore one. I  attend a Shabbat morning minyan, a small, joyous, informal service at which I wear a tallis and a baseball cap, usually bearing the logo of my daughter’s private, Episcopal-affiliated middle school (we both appreciate irony).

The deaths in Pittsburgh triggered a desire to publicly pronounce and announce my Jewishness. Not that this was not already obvious to anyone paying attention—my last name is Wasserman, I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, I work in academia, and I am obsessed with Jewish baseball players. This was different. I was challenging anti-Semites or other people who are uncomfortable around “different” Jews. As if saying hineni—“Here I am.”

Update: Tablet's Unorthodox discusses (around 58:30) a letter from a listener who similarly began wearing a yarmulke following the shooting. He discusses greater initial apprehension of a negative reaction from other Jews than I had.

The practice of wearing a head covering outside of prayer is said to rest on two ideas. One is as a reminder that Hashem always is above us and that we must remain humble as we walk through life. The second is to stand apart as Jews, to dress differently from the Nation around us and thus to affirm and celebrate our separate identity as the People Israel.

I was motivated by the latter idea and its symbolism in a moment of distress for the Jewish People. I described it to one (non-Jewish) colleague as an “I am Spartacus” moment. (“I am Spartastein”? “I am Spartawitz”?) A student who has worn a yarmulke his entire life stopped by my office to thank me—having always stood out in this noticeable way, he appreciated other Jews joining him in such a public display. I have heard stories of rabbis in France warning congregants not to wear yarmulkes outside, given the increase in anti-Semitism there. I would not be so dissuaded, although I believe (hope?) the situation in the U.S. is less fraught and dangerous.

But I have experienced two things in the past week or so. First, it has become more than symbolic. Having something on my head reminds me of my identity and my place as part of the Jewish People at every moment. I appreciate the constant sense of belonging; I am not sure I am not walking with my head slightly higher. (This is easy to say at 50; I am sure I would have felt differently if I were obligated to do this at 15). Second, I am beginning to appreciate the first idea—the constant awareness of humility and the feeling of something greater as I walk my four cubits.

I do not know how long I will continue to do this, if I will return to my old fashion stylings when the immediate memory of Pittsburgh has faded, if I become annoyed by the feeling the thing is flying off my head when I pace around in class, or if this is a permanent change in my life and my identity. But early results suggest a substantive response in a symbolic act.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 8, 2018 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion | Permalink | Comments (9)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Update on the Yiddishe World Series

We are three games into the 2018 World Series, featuring one Jewish player on each team. The first two games, both Red Sox wins, were quiet on this front. Ian Kinsler started both games at second for the Red Sox and was a combined 1-for-7 with an RBI. Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson did not start either game; he was one of the Dodgers' four top hitters, all left-handers, who did not start against lefty starters, although he entered both games late, going 0-for-3 combined.

Game Three, an 18-inning Dodger win and the longest game in World Series history, had the Great, the Good, and the Ugly for the Chosen People.

The great:

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Sandy Koufax gave Dodger starter Walker Buehler a standing ovation as Buehler left the mound after pitching seven innings of two-hit shutout ball with nine strikeouts. Koufax is two months shy of 83 and looks as if he still could pitch.

 

 

The good:

Pederson gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead with a home run in the third. But for a blown save, that would have been the game-winning hit.

The ugly:

Kinsler. Inserted as a pinch-runner in the 10th, Kinsler was almost picked-off first. He was called safe and the call upheld on replay review, although it was close. Kinsler then advanced to third on a single, but overslid third base and barely scrambled to get his foot back on the base before being tagged. He then was thrown out trying to score on a fly ball to center. The throw was off-line, up the third-base line. But Kinsler got such a slow break off third that he basically ran into the tag about fifteen feet before the plate.

Then, with the Sox up 2-1 with two out in the bottom of the 13th, Kinsler's wild throw on a grounder up the middle allowed the tying run to score and the game to continue for five more innings and a 14th-inning stretch. Game Four in about nine hours.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 27, 2018 at 10:36 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Court’s Religious Jurisprudence and Vaccines

 

The Court’s Religious Jurisprudence and Vaccines

In my last post, I pointed out that for over a century, for good reasons, courts have upheld school immunization mandates, including in the face of challenges based on the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. Two federal Court of Appeals cases in 2011and 2015reaffirmed this. The courts’ approach is based in part on powerful dictum in Prince v. Massachusetts, and in part on Employment Division v. Smith. All the courts upholding California’s new school vaccine legislation, SB277, echoed that view.

An important qualification is that states that do provide an exemption face constitutional limits that seemed designed to make the exemption hard to police and easy to abuse (though each by itself can be justified). States cannot require a clergy lettersupporting an exemption claim, because that discriminates in favor of organized religion. States cannot refuse an exemptionto a member of a religion that supports vaccines – for example, a Catholic or Jew – on the basis of that alone, if she claims a personal religious objection to vaccines. And when state law, itself, does not require evidence of sincerity, several courts have ruled that officials cannot add that requirement. State officials must accept any claim of religious objection at face value.

This makes a religious exemption very hard to monitor. Most of the users of this exemption are likely refusing vaccines for non-religious reasons. Having a religious exemption – when courts have consistently found it is not required – is likely a poor policy choice.  

One question is whether the recent Supreme Court jurisprudence will change the current judicial consensus that a religious exemption is not required in vaccine mandates. This is a narrow application of these decisions (and far from inclusive, because I want this post reasonably short); but this exercise can highlight some potential risks of the court’s recent religious jurisprudence even the supporting justices seem not to desire.  The current Supreme Court majority has been fairly cautious in its handling of the religious cases. But we are facing a potentially different composition of the court – and who knows? (For more detailed discussions of the religious jurisprudence on this blog, seehere,here,hereand here, for example. For a recent discussion of a paper on appointments on this blog, see here).

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, HHS actually raised a concern about negative effect on vaccines coverage by employers, and Justice Ginsburg’s dissent raised that as well. However, since the case focused on a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) question and not a first amendment question, it did not directly address school immunization mandates. The majority referred to Smith as the standard for applying the First Amendment, and took pains to distinguish its discussion of RFRA from that context. However, the majority’s extremely narrow reading of what is an acceptable least restrictive means to address a religious issue can affect the way federal district cases and state courts influenced by the Supreme Court approach immunization mandates if they apply strict scrutiny. The majority may have seen this as unlikely, but it’s a possible outcome. That said, two courts in California addressing this after Hobby Lobby – a federal district court in Whitlowand the Second Appellate District’s  opinion inBrown– found that immunization mandates meet the least restrictive means test to achieve the compelling interest of disease prevention, each on a different basis. Whitlowfound that since the goal of the law in question was “total immunization”, any non-medical exemption would not achieve it, and the law was the least restrictive means to it. The Court of Appeal in Brown v. Smith, on the other hand, found that immunization mandates are the “Gold Standard” for preventing diseases.

 

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Right Commissionwas also carefully and narrowly decided, based on a finding that the Colorado Commission in question was hostile to the baker’s religious objections. It did not overturn Smith, and did not touch on immunization mandates. However, it could be used by opponents in the right circumstances to try and claim hostility to their religious claims. For example, in a case attacking Michigan’s requirement that people seeking exemptions have a discussion with the Department of Health’s personnel – with a plaintiff with religious objections to vaccines -  the Sixth Circuit’s rejectionof her claim was in part based on the lack of a constitutional right to an exemption. If plaintiff claimed special hostility to her religious objections, and it wasn’t unlikely she would, Masterpiece Cakeshopcould be used in support.

In short, so far, the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on religion does not undermine the existing jurisprudence upholding school immunization mandates without a religious exemption. However, it creates potential arguments that plaintiffs can use to challenge the mandates in court. More than that, the growing religious jurisprudence – which should include the recent Becerracase overturning California’s law requiring pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion services – suggests a possible change in the Supreme Court’s general approach to religious arguments. This, in turn, could increase the protection of religious claims in many contexts, including school vaccination mandates, potentially putting the public health of communities at substantial risk.

Posted by Dorit Reiss on July 10, 2018 at 11:57 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Religion | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Law, Religion, and Health Care

In a number of health care settings, religious values come into conflict with the desires of patients or the medical judgment of physicians and other providers of health care. A doctor or hospital might invoke considerations of conscience to deny patients access to abortion. Or parents might invoke religious beliefs to refuse medical care for their children.

In a forthcoming article (available here), I argue that while the free exercise of religion is a fundamental right, the interest in protecting individual conscience can be secured without consideration of religious  belief when it comes to deciding about access to health care.

For treatment decisions in which a provider’s religious belief deserves respect, there always will be a legitimate nonreligious basis for refusing to provide care. For example, just as physicians can view abortion as immoral on religious grounds so can they view abortion as immoral on nonreligious grounds. Thus, for example, the Church Amendment protects individuals or facilities for whom abortion is “contrary to . . . religious beliefs or moral convictions.” The moral conviction language is broad enough to encompass both the sectarian and the secular.

On the other hand, if we cannot find sufficient nonreligious reasons for objecting to the care, then religious objections are insufficient as well. For example, if principles of child abuse and neglect generally would prohibit parents from rejecting a particular medical treatment for their children, then a parent’s religious beliefs would not justify an exemption from the obligation to agree to the treatment. Parental religious beliefs should not permit a parent to refuse a polio vaccine or an appendectomy for a child because there is no legitimate nonreligious reason for rejecting ordinary medical treatments that can prevent death or other serious harm to the child’s health.

Are there any exceptions to the connection between religious reasons and secular reasons? Are there times when one should be able to invoke religious beliefs even when there are no legitimate nonreligious bases for the exercise of conscience? If religious freedom is measured in secular terms, then we could easily undermine the whole idea of religious freedom.

While there are circumstances outside of the delivery of health care for recognizing religious beliefs that do not have a secular counterpart, it is difficult to identify a situation in which a person’s religious belief alone could justify the denial of beneficial care. We should not allow religious doctrine to trump a patient’s interests in health. In other words, even when someone has a valid free exercise interest, the state’s interest in protecting the health of its citizens outweighs the religious interest—the state has a compelling interest that overcomes the fundamental right.

There’s also an important advantage to looking to secular morality rather than religious belief. It can be difficult for courts to assess the sincerity or legitimacy of a religious belief, as with arguments about complicity. Analyzing matters such as complicity in secular terms allows a court to give due regard to religious beliefs without having to make religious judgments.

Posted by David Orentlicher on May 31, 2018 at 12:49 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Religion | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Call for Nominations: Harold Berman Award for Excellence in Scholarship (Law and Religion)

For the last several years, the AALS's Section on Law and Religion has conferred the Harold Berman Award for Excellence in Scholarship to junior-ish scholars who write top-shelf papers during the relevant year.  Here's the call for nominations, from Nelson Tebbe:

The AALS Section on Law and Religion seeks nominations for the Harold Berman Award for Excellence in Scholarship. This annual award recognizes a paper that “has made an outstanding scholarly contribution to the field of law and religion,” in the words of the prize rules. To be eligible, a paper must be published between July 15, 2017 and July 15, 2018. The author must be “a faculty member at an AALS Member School with no more than 10 years’ experience as a faculty member.” Fellows are eligible. Self-nominations are accepted. Nominations should include the name of the author, the title of the paper, a statement of eligibility, and a brief rationale for choosing the paper for the award. Nominations should be sent to Nelson Tebbe at [email protected] by August 15, 2018. The winner will receive an award plaque at the AALS annual meeting in January, 2019. The prize committee members are Stephanie Barclay, Thomas C. Berg, Haider Ala Hamoudi, Elizabeth Sepper, and Nelson Tebbe (chair). 

Posted by Rick Garnett on May 2, 2018 at 08:52 AM in Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Book Review Roundtable on Kathleen Brady's "The Distinctiveness of Religion in American Law"

Last Spring, the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School (more here) hosted a small roundtable conference dedicated to Kathleen Brady's then-new book, The Distinctiveness of Religion in American Law:  Rethinking Religion Clause Jurisprudence.  Each participant wrote a short reflection on the book -- a kind of "admission ticket" -- and these reflections (along with Brady's response) formed the basis for the day's conversations.  I'm pleased to report that the "tickets" have been collected in the November 2017 issue of the Journal of Law and Religion.  They are, if I say so myself, really interesting.  Take a look!

 

Posted by Rick Garnett on April 24, 2018 at 11:06 AM in Religion, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Why has bris survived?

I have been taking an adult Jewish learning class this year, examining the key events (milestones, holy days, etc.) of Jewish life. This week was about birth and brit milah. One question was why brit milah is observed by substantial numbers of Jews when other mitvot--keeping kosher, observing Shabbat, observing the festival days, wearing tzitzit--are not practiced in nearly as great numbers by Jewish people assimilated into modern U.S. society. Of all the mitzvot to survive modernity and assimilation, why that one?

My theory: Circumcision become so prevalent among the general population (especially in the U.S.) after World War II that it ceased to be a practice that made Jews different or apart from the broader society into which they were trying to assimilate. Keeping Kosher made a person different from broader society, because most people do not keep Kosher. Not driving or participating in activities on Shabbat made a person different from broader society (and made it impossible for his kids to play sports and participate in other widespread secular activities). Wearing a yarmulke or tzitzit made a person look different from those in the broader society. Missing school or work for Sukkot made a person stand out from his co-workers or fellow students.

But most males (Jewish and non-Jewish) were circumcised, so a circumcised Jewish male did not look different from those around him. It was easier for Jews to continue circumcision because it did not interfere with assimilation the way other mitzvot, which non-Jews did not also adopt as secular practices, did.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 11, 2018 at 05:39 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion | Permalink | Comments (8)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Holocaust, Shoah, and unique group experiences

Lost amidst President Trump's offending Muslims the world over was his offending many Jews with his Holocaust Remembrance Day Statement. The statement spoke of the "depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people," without mentioning that more than half of those, the primary targets, and the raison d'être of the Nazi efforts, were Jews. Spokesperson Hope Hicks defended the statement by pointing to the 5 million victims of other groups, including "priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah's Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters." Chief of Staff Reince Priebus tried to do the same on Meet the Press on Sunday, producing a fascinating three minutes of video (after the jump) in which he stares blankly ahead while concocting a word soup of adjectives to describe the Holocaust, including "horrible event," "miserable time in history," and "extraordinarily sad." All without ever saying, explicitly (as opposed to blandly agreeing with Chuck Todd's premises) that Jews were the central victims.

Jewish groups were outraged. Stripping away its uniquely Jewish nature is an element of denial--"many people died, not only Jews, and it entailed nothing programmatic or unique to history. And it divorces the event from 2000 years of unique anti-Semitism that made it possible. Fortunately, Preibus reminded us that Trump has Jewish family members, which will be his get-out-of-jail-free card for the next few years.

The question of universalizing affects what we even call this thing. I prefer the Hebrew word "Shoah" (literally, "destruction" or "total destruction"), although that word could isolate the event, and its victims, from the rest of the world and of world experience (not unaided by that historic anti-Semitism). On the other hand, a generic English word such as "Holocaust" allows for the Jewish element to be ignored, perhaps for those same reasons, just as Trump did here.

Updates: First is Deborah Lipstadt in the Atlantic, labeling this "de-Judaization of the Holocaust" as "softcore denialism."

Second is WH Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who was beyond annoyed by people nitpicking of the statement, insisting it had been "praised" (without mentioning by whom) and arguing that President Obama's "anti-Israel" policies of the last eight years are a bigger deal than a statement remembering the Holocaust. Three remarks. First, Spicer makes me long for Ari Fleischer. Second, every statement from the White House trying to defuse this keeps coming back, without acknowledging (or maybe even recognizing), the problem--that the statement is troubling because its memory of the Holocaust is historically wrong in significant ways that play on anti-Semitism. And third, the downshift of how much Trump loves Israel, because: 1) Israel is not the Holocaust and 2) what Trump loves is Benjamin Netanyahu and his government--which is not "Israel" in the same way that Donald Trump is not "America."

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 30, 2017 at 01:15 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Religion | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 05, 2016

Jews, race, ethnicity, and religion

A good read in The Atlantic on whether Jews are "white" or whether we constitute a distinct racial or ethnic group, and what that means for our place in American society. It is a question that may be more relevant in the coming years, on both sides of the political spectrum.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 5, 2016 at 09:54 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Remarks on "The Future of Religious Liberty" at the Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention

I participated yesterday in a panel discussion on "RFRA and the Future of Religious Liberty" at the Federalist Society's annual National Lawyers Convention.  After noting that recent events had dramatically undermined any confidence one might have in my ability to say anything useful about "the future", I briefly discussed "one big-picture idea, two reasons for cautious optimism, and three causes for concern."  

The big-picture idea (such as it is) was this:  In any society where there is (a) religious and moral diversity and (b) an active, regulatory welfare state, there will -- necessarily -- be conflicts and tensions between (i) duly enacted, majority-supported, generally applicable laws and (ii) some citizens' religious beliefs and exercise.  What Justice Jackson called "the uniformity of the graveyard" is not an attractive way to manage these conflicts and tensions; the toleration-and-accommodation strategy, however, is.  RFRA-type laws are, in my view, effective and workable mechanisms for carrying out the latter strategy and so, yes, I think such laws are and should be part of the "future of religious liberty."

The two "reasons for cautious optimism":  First, the (unanimous) Hosanna-Tabor case shows that the Court recognizes that religious freedom is not entirely about "balancing interests" but also imposes, in some contexts, real limits on the government's ability -- even when its pursuing important goals like reducing employment discrimination -- to interfere with individuals' and institutions religious decisions.  Second, as the (unanimous) Holt case (among many others) illustrated, outside of a few well-known cases (e.g., Storman's) and hot-button-issues (e.g., wedding ventors), religious-liberty claimants are very often winning.  The Becket Fund, etc., and the Department of Justice, do a lot of good work.

Next, three causes for concern -- that is, three demographic, cultural, and sociological facts and trends, or three things about the culture (and "law is downstream from culture") that were true before and are still true after the election:  (1) the "rise of the nones" presents the danger that fewer people will see themselves as having a "stake" in the religious-freedom issue (when, in fact, we all -- whether or not we are religious -- do); (2) the relative decline in the role and footprint of religious institutions and communities (whether because of scandals, or atomizing individualism, or something else) reduces a sense of solidarity and makes it more difficult for people to resist incursions on religious liberty when they threaten; and (3) the increasing willingness of the government to shrink the civil-society space and to expand the "public" sector, by leveraging its licensing, accrediting, spending, grant-making, taxing, contracting, and social-welfare functions -- that is, by using conditions in addition to regulations to affect non-state actors' practices.

Then followed a lively discussion!

Posted by Rick Garnett on November 18, 2016 at 12:40 PM in Religion, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Greenberg, Koufax, and Yom Kippur

I have an essay today in Tablet Magazine, When They Were Kings: Greenberg and Koufax Sit on Yom Kippur. The piece compares Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg in their respective decisions not to play on Yom Kippur 31 years apart. I argue that Greenberg's decision was especially significant given the different, and more precarious, position of Jews in America and the world in 1934 compared with 1965. The essay elaborates on what I wrote here last Yom Kippur, on the fiftieth anniversary of Koufax sitting out.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 11, 2016 at 12:54 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Thoughts on Reason-Based Regulation of Reproductive Decision-Making: Part II

In an earlier post, I blogged about the rise of reason-based bans on abortion (such as laws banning abortion for sex selection, or because of fetal anomaly), and I hypothesized that there is the constitutional privacy right includes a right to make a constitutionally protected decision for whatever reasons one chooses. In this post, I want to consider another type of law that arguably implicates this privacy right, and also places it in conflict with other individuals’ religious freedom–specifically, laws that require employers to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives when they are needed for particular reasons.

About half of the states currently require insurers in the state to provide coverage for contraceptives. These state-law contraceptive coverage mandates are separate from the regulation requiring contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act and apply independently of it. Because these mandates are enforced by state governments rather than the federal government, the federal RFRA—construed in Hobby Lobby to require an accommodation for employers that object on religious grounds—does not apply directly to them. Nonetheless, in many of these states, religious employers may still be able to access insurance plans without contraceptive coverage, either because the state contraceptive coverage laws also have religious exemptions written into them, or because those exceptions are available via state RFRA analogs.

In a handful of states, employers may opt out of providing insurance coverage of contraceptives for contraceptive purposes but not for therapeutic purposes. For example, Arizona law, which requires insurers to provide contraceptive coverage if they cover other prescription drugs, also provides that “a religiously affiliated employer may require that the corporation provide a contract without coverage for” contraceptives. However, it goes on to specify that the insurance policy cannot exclude coverage for prescription contraceptive methods prescribed "for medical indications other than for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes.” Similarly, North Carolina law allows religious employers to offer plans without contraceptive coverage but does not exempt them from covering prescription contraceptives "for reasons other than contraceptive purposes, or ... that is necessary to preserve the life or health of a person covered under the plan.” Presumably, these sorts of provisos would cover women who seek contraceptive drugs for purposes of avoiding or curing particular medical conditions (such as certain skin conditions or menstrual disorders) as well as women who need contraception because pregnancy would be life-threatening or harmful to their health. At least in the latter scenario, it seems clear that such provisos distinguish between valid and valid reasons for the same reproductive conduct.

These sorts of laws set up a potential conflict between a woman’s right to privacy with respect to the deliberative process and an employer’s right to act based on religious motivations. Because the right to autonomous decision-making has constitutional stature (as I argue in Part I) and the right to act based on religious motivations does not (as explained below), it seems clear that the woman’s right to access contraception for any reason whatsoever should prevail.

These state laws, while presumably intended to ensure that women’s physical health is protected while safeguarding the religious freedom of employers, nonetheless have the effect of regulating the reasons for which women may engage in constitutionally protected conduct. Women who work for religious employers taking advantage of these exceptions may access covered contraception if it is necessary to avoid harm to their health but not for family-planning purposes. According to the framework outlined in Part I, laws that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable reasons for choosing contraception would be unconstitutional. Similarly to the selective abortion bans discussed in Part I, they allow the employer to dictate the terms of the woman’s reproductive decision, interfering with the woman’s deliberative process as clearly as if the law itself denied women contraceptive access for certain reasons and not others. By empowering employers to privilege certain grounds of decision over others, the government picks and chooses among the reasons a woman may or may not have access to contraception.

The privacy right related to contraceptives is constitutionally protected. However, there is no constitutional free exercise right to be exempt from a generally applicable health insurance mandate because of one’s religious beliefs. The right claimed by Hobby Lobby was based on RFRA, not the Constitution, and the Supreme Court made clear in Employment Division v. Smith that there was no general free exercise right to an exemption from a neutral and generally applicable law. Thus, the woman’s right to choose contraception without regard to the reason should trump.

Ironically, however, one consequence of this analysis is that laws providing blanket exemptions from contraceptive coverage are on firmer constitutional ground than more carefully tailored exemptions. A blanket exemption allowing religious employers to opt out from covering contraceptives would not unconstitutionally privilege certain reasons over others and therefore would not burden the constitutional right to deliberate autonomously, because it would not distinguish between valid and invalid reasons. Is this result a correct one, or a desirable one?

Although this result seems counter-intuitive, it may nonetheless be the correct one based on existing constitutional doctrine. Once the government begins carefully tailoring exemptions, problems can ensue. For example, a statute with a narrowly drafted religious exemption that excludes certain religious groups while protecting others would likely be more problematic than one with no exemption.

Moreover, it may be worth considering the political implications of a decision requiring states to exempt all religious employers from covering contraception in all circumstances, even when it is needed to protect the woman’s health, or none at all. It is possible that the result would be that the practice of covering oral contraceptives for non-family-planning purposes would continue but without the sanction of law; employers and insurers could continue to make the distinction between therapeutic and non-therapeutic contraception, but through private, internal policies. (For example, Catholic employers generally do not have a problem with covering contraception for “therapeutic,” as opposed to family planning purposes.) Since no law would be implicated, there would be no state action and no constitutional problem. On the other hand, there might be value in highlighting the conflict between religious beliefs and private reproductive decision-making in this context. It is worth considering, perhaps in a more public way, whether the distinction between therapeutic and non-therapeutic contraception is one that the government should make and whether the government should be deciding which uses of contraception are sufficient to outweigh an employer’s religious claims. Currently, this debate is submerged by Hobby Lobby and the post-Hobby Lobby discourse, which treats religious exemptions from contraceptives coverage as an all-or-nothing issue.

Posted by Jessie Hill on July 25, 2016 at 05:22 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Religious Accommodations and Third-Party Harms at Pepperdine

I had an engaging and helpful conversation yesterday, in the context of two panels at an ongoing, fascinating conference at Pepperdine, "Doing Justice Without Doing Harm," sponsored by the Nootbaar Institute on Religion, Law & Ethics.  A group of us discussed various aspects of the problem of identifying, describing, and justifying the limits on accommodations of religion, with a primary focus on the recent and important article on the subject by Profs. Douglas NeJaime and Reva Siegel.

In my own remarks, I tried to engage (and push back on) the article's claim that we and the law should be hesitant and concerned about granting accommodation claims that touch on matters in "democratic contestation" or concerning with there is ongoing "political mobilization."  I suggested that, in a way, this claim is a reworking of the Lemon reasoning (with which I took issue here) that the Establishment Clause authorizes judges to identify and invalidate laws that risk "political divisiveness along religious lines."  

Posted by Rick Garnett on March 12, 2016 at 05:17 PM in Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 04, 2016

The IRS Needs to Pay Attention to Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2016

In just over eight months, we'll be voting for our new president. Irrespective of who's on the ballot--and, for that matter, irrespective of who ultimately wins--one thing is for certain: in seven months or so, a bunch of church-goers are going to hear their spiritual leader endorse a candidate.

Sometime during the month leading up to the presidential election,[fn1] the ADF will sponsor its annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an act of civil disobedience by churches[fn2] and an attempt to challenge the campaigning prohibition in court.

Basically, in 1954, Congress added a short phrase to section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. That phrase prevents an organization from qualifying for a tax exemption unless it

does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

The ADF believes that this campaigning prohibition is unconstitutional, at least as applied to churches. So for the last eight years, it has encouraged pastors to flout the rule, to include an explicit endorsement of a candidate in their sermons leading up to Election Day, and then to send a copy of the sermon to the IRS.

During the last presidential election, more than 1,500 pastors apparently participated. And how many churches lost their tax exemptions? None.

The ADF has organized Pulpit Freedom Sunday deliberately to create a test case that it can take to the courts. It expects the courts to strike the campaigning prohibition down as unconstitutional. But it's not just the ADF that wants the test case: Americans United for Separation of Church and State also wants the IRS to enforce the campaigning prohibition. 

Clearly, the two groups think the case will turn out differently. Which is right? It's unclear. Scholars (including me!) have argued extensively about whether the prohibition is constitutional as applied to churches. But the question has only been adjudicated once, by the D.C. Circuit. The D.C. Circuit upheld the prohibition as constitutional, and, for whatever reason, the church didn't appeal to the Supreme Court.

Note that, for various procedural reasons, nobody has standing to challenge the prohibition unless and until the IRS revokes a church's exemption.

Why hasn't the IRS acted until now? Probably because there's really no upside to revoking a church's tax exemption; it's not going to significantly increase the government's revenue, and it would likely be unpopular at best in a world where politicians run against the IRS as a central part of their platform.

But at some point, the reticence becomes too much, as it has here: in 2012, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the IRS for not enforcing the prohibition, and eventually settled with the understanding that the IRS would eventually start enforcing it.[fn3] 

And, as I lay out in my recent University of Colorado Law Review article, now's the time. Pulpit Freedom Sunday has reduced the search costs to nearly nothing--pastors send their sermons in to the IRS. I mean, the IRS has to actually look at the sermons, because there's no guarantee that participating pastors fully understand how to violate the campaigning prohibition. (Check out this sermon, for instance: the pastor makes a strong case for religious involvement in politics, but churches aren't prohibited from being involved in politics. Just from endorsing or opposing candidates, which the pastor doesn't do here.)

So what should the IRS do? It should announce, today, that is will revoke the tax exemption of every church that endorses or opposes an candidate for political office as part of Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Then it can sit back and wait for the sermons to arrive, follow through, and get ready to litigate.

That way, both the ADF and Americans United will be happy, and we can have closure on the constitutional status of the campaigning prohibition, at least as applied to religious organizations.

---

[fn1] I'm pretty sure that I read that the ADF is expanding Pulpit Freedom Sunday this year to encompass the whole month of October, but I can't currently find anything that gives a date or dates.

[fn2] Also, presumably, synagogues and mosques and other religious organizations. But honestly, the ADF seems to be thinking Christian-centric, with its choice of Sunday as the relevant day.

[fn3] BTW, though this has nothing to do with this post, isn't the perma.cc thing awesome? The link is already broken, but the University of Colorado Law Review has given it a permanently-findable home.

Posted by Sam Bruson on March 4, 2016 at 11:16 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Religion, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How Being a Struggling Student of Talmud Made Me a Better Professor of Law

My mother passed away last March. With my dad’s passing six years earlier, my brother and I suddenly found ourselves parentless while still in our 30s. Dealing with the grief has been difficult enough. Equally difficult in many ways has been the challenge of administering my mom’s estate—working through the modern morass of medical forms, bills, taxes, mail and magazine subscriptions, bank accounts, and credit cards is essentially a second full-time job. It turns out that dying in the twenty-first century involves a tremendous amount of paperwork.

The silver lining to all this, I suppose, is that acting as personal representative of my mom’s estate has allowed (forced?) me to employ several long-dormant aspects of my legal education. I have reviewed more contracts, communicated with more federal and state agencies, and spent more time at the probate court clerk’s office in the last year than at any time since I left full-time practice (and maybe ever). Like working an underused muscle for the first time in a long time, doing this kind of legal work is simultaneously invigorating, exhausting, and humbling. I am despondent about the circumstances, but grateful for the experience.

The circumstances have created another unexpected educational benefit: I have been reintroduced to the awesome challenge of Talmud study. In a year when many things have been cloudy and overwhelming, a weekly dip into Talmudic debates has sharpened my mind and changed some of my perspective on teaching.

The Talmud is a compilation of commentaries surrounding Judaism’s Oral Law (that is, the law said to be provided directly to Moses and orally transmitted through the generations, before the teachings were compiled in written form around 200 CE). Serious Talmud scholars intensely focus on a single page of text each day (Daf Yomi). A statement of law or practice in the center of the page is accompanied (literally surrounded) by a variety of rabbinic debates on the meaning and application of the statement, or offering proof for the statement. Commentaries build upon commentaries, and pull in citations from a variety of other textual sources. For a very rough sense of what it feels like, imagine a treatise on the First Amendment written by a squabbling committee of brilliant academics over the course of several centuries, and referencing a dizzying array of cases, law review articles, statutes, regulations, and local practices.

My entry into the Talmudic waters has been far less intense than daily study, but still offers plenty to digest. I meet with a small group of adult learners once a week shortly before evening minyan (the service that permits me to say Kaddish, the obligatory mourning prayer said daily for eleven months after a parent’s death). We have an excellent instructor, who is both prepared and patient. I dutifully bring my book, puzzle over the debates with the others around the table, and try to understand each strand of argument line by line, paragraph by paragraph.

In some ways, my legal training has been immensely helpful for this kind of work. I can easily recognize and appreciate some of the tools of argumentation: reasoning by analogy, reasoning from history, reasoning by custom, etc. It’s Cardozo, 1500 years before Cardozo. In other ways, my American legal training is virtually useless: because the debates in the Talmud operate in a closed environment in which text, history, and practice are of divine origin, the policy arguments that animate difficult legal questions in our time are noticeably absent. You cannot just say, “Why does any of this matter? “ One must take it as a given that it matters—even when the debate is about something as arcane as when to celebrate the New Year for Vegetables. (Yes. Really.) Nor can one simply dismiss a purported proof text as wrong; since the point of the exercise is to explain the law rather than develop or discover it, rejection of one proof requires the submission of an alternative proof. Once you accept these parameters, it’s a wonderful stretching exercise for the logical mind.

More strikingly, my journey into Talmud study has been humbling. If you were to ask me at the end of each study session whether I understood what we covered, the answer would be an unequivocal yes—and an unequivocal no. I understand the scope of the debate as presented in the limited form we discussed, but at the same time I realize how little I understand of how it fits into the larger discussion. So I get it—and I don’t. And it occurs to me that only years of consistent and rigorous study will truly make some of it clear (or more accurately, clearer).

This realization has had effects on the way I teach civil procedure. My own experience suggests to me that student silence (especially among 1Ls) almost certainly does not have a uniform meaning. Some students may be quiet because they are unprepared and cannot follow the discussion in a meaningful way. Others may think they understand, but need time to process the discussion and rearticulate it in their own words. They are not ready to ask questions or jump in. Still others may understand the terms of the specific discussion we are engaged in at the moment, but (like me at Talmud study) don’t know enough (or don’t feel comfortable enough) trying to tie it together to other topics in the course. I have to try to reach all of these groups in different ways—through classroom discussion, formative assessment methods, and one-on-one meetings.

So I will stick with Talmud study, even when my other executor duties are complete. I think my mom would approve.

I would be curious to hear from others who had the simultaneous experience of being a teacher in one discipline and a student in another. How did your experience in one area influence your approach to the other?

Posted by Jordan Singer on January 20, 2016 at 10:35 AM in Culture, Legal Theory, Religion, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 07, 2015

50 Years Ago Today: The Declaration on Religious Freedom

On Dec. 7, 1965, Pope Paul VI promulgated Dignitatis Humanae, the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom, "on the right of the person and of communities to social and civil freedom in matters religious."  Here're the opening lines:

A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man,and the demand is increasingly made that men should act on their own judgment, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by a sense of duty. The demand is likewise made that constitutional limits should be set to the powers of government, in order that there may be no encroachment on the rightful freedom of the person and of associations.

The Declaration and its anniversary were the subject of a really good conference, organized and hosted by the Notre Dame Law Review, a few weeks ago.  John Garvey, the President of the Catholic University of America (and the former dean of the Boston College Law School) gave the keynote.

Posted by Rick Garnett on December 7, 2015 at 11:27 AM in Religion, Rick Garnett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 03, 2015

My Trip to the Town of Greece

In the book I'm writing now (and by "writing" I mean I've signed a contract for something I should be writing but actually haven't written a word of) for Stanford University Press,  I'm looking at how non-Christians--Wiccans, Hindus, Atheists/Humanists, Satanists, the Summum, etc.--are increasingly trying to participate in public life by, for instance, giving legislative prayers and invocations, putting up displays on government property, and using public voucher funds for their schools, etc.  I'm calling the book, tentatively, "Our Non-Christian Nation: How Atheists, Wiccans, Satanists, and Other Non-Christians are Demanding Their Rightful Place in American Public Life." 

Like in two of my other books about religion, this too will be a book where I travel places to observe actual events and to talk to people involved in the controversies I'm writing about.  My first trip was to the Town of Greece back in October.  You may remember that a couple of years ago, plaintiffs successfully challenged in the Second Circuit the town's policy of beginning each of its town hall meetings with a prayer because almost all of the prayers were given by a Christian, and they were usually extremely sectarian in nature (meaning they expressly invoked Jesus and the like).  The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, reversed the Second Circuit and held that sectarian prayers were okay so long as towns like Greece don't prohibit other groups from also giving invocations and/or prayers.

One of the plaintiffs in that case was Linda Stephens, a wonderful lady who has lived in Greece for many years and who happens to be an atheist.  Following the Supreme Court's decision, she asked the town council if she could give a secular invocation, and the council agreed. Somehow I came across the schedule for the town's prayers/invocations online, and when I saw that Linda was giving the invocation, I decided to take a plane to Rochester and check it out myself.

I met with Linda at her home and talked with her for a long time about the case, and then later in the day headed over to the town hall.  The town Councilor, whom I also met with, is apparently a huge pickle ball fan, which is a game I had never heard of before, sort of like tennis but not tennis, and there are a set of pickle ball courts next to the town hall.  This is not relevant.  I was interested in seeing if there would be any controversy at the meeting, given that Linda was one of the people who brought the suit that had brought so much attention to this small town.  Linda's was actually the second secular invocation given in Greece since the case came down, and at the first one, the only sign of dissent was a single man holding up a sign that said something like "Jesus Saves."  I thought, however, that this event might be different since it was Linda doing the invocation.

In fact, there was no controversy whatsoever.  Not even that one guy seemed to be there, and if he was there, he was not holding a sign.  Linda gave the invocation.  It was very nice (I thought).  Everyone was very respectful.  Nobody seemed to sigh.  Nobody left or groaned audibly.  The guy sitting next to me had removed his baseball hat when the Councilor announced that it was time for the "prayer," but when the baseball hat guy realized that Linda was not really giving a prayer, he put his hat back on.  It was a Red Sox hat, incidentally.

There's more, but for that you'll have to wait for the book.

Also, here is a picture of me and my hedgehog.

Posted by Jay Wexler on December 3, 2015 at 09:28 AM in Jay Wexler, Religion | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yom Kippur, Sandy Koufax, and (the forgotten) Hank Greenberg

Something that had not clicked until my rabbi discussed it last night: This Yom Kippur marked the fiftieth anniversary of Sandy Koufax not pitching Game 1 of the World Series (it was October 6, 1965, on the English calendar). This story forms a big piece of Koufax's legend as one of the greatest pitchers of all time, the greatest Jewish player of all time, and a hero to American Jews who saw in his actions a place for their faith within American society (Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax...).

My rabbi also told the oft-repeated addendum to the story. Don Drysdale (himself a future Hall of Fame pitcher, so it is not like there was such a drop-off in WAR by Koufax not pitching) started and lasted less than three innings. The story goes that when Dodgers manager Walter Alston came to the mound to remove Drysdale from the game, Drysdale said something to the effect of "Bet you wish I was Jewish, too." But a baseball historian told me there is some doubt about when this comment actually was made and by whom. One version is the common one. Another has Drysdale saying it in the clubhouse after the game. And in a third version, it was not Drysdale who said it, but a former Dodger player who was watching from the stands. The historian was unable to get underneath the most-common version of the story.

Koufax's decision has completely overshadowed a similar decision by the previous greatest Jewish player, Hank Greenberg, who played for Detroit and Pittsburgh in the '30s and '40s (his life, and this event, is covered in a wonderful 2000 documentary). In the heat of a close pennant race in 1934, Greenberg played on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (after obtaining permission from a local rabbi, who searched the texts to find that "play" was permitted on that day), but did not play on Yom Kippur. Although no one in 2014 marked the eightieth anniversary of Greenberg, in some ways, his stand was more courageous than Koufax's. For one, Greenberg was an everyday player who would have been expected to play every game; as a pitcher, Koufax only could pitch in one of the first two games, so holding him to Game 2 was not an enormous lineup change or loss. For another, the position of American Jews in 1934 was far more precarious than in 1965. While there was still anti-Semitism, both de facto and de jure, in 1965, it was far worse thirty years earlier. This was one year after Hitler came to power. And Greenberg played in Detroit, home of Henry Ford and Father Coughlin.

Greenberg was similarly lauded for his act of conscience and seen as similarly inspirational by American Jews. Yet his stand has been lost to history. Some of it is that the World Series is a bigger deal than a pennant race. Some of it is that Koufax is closer to being the greatest pitcher of all time than Greenberg is to being the greaterst first-baseman of all time, so all of his actions are magnified. Some may be recency bias.

In any event, with all the additional post-season rounds and games, no Jewish player will ever again have to skip a World Series game for Yom Kippur. It is more likely he would miss a World Series game for Thanksgivukkah 79811.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 23, 2015 at 09:31 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

New Jersey’s Legislature Takes a “Grave” Misstep

Other than fellow “property law geeks,” not many people may wonder about property rights in cemeteries, but it is a surprisingly complex and varied topic about which I’ve pondered and about which Professor Tanya Marsh of Wake Forest has developed national expertise.  She has recently written the definitive casebook on cemetery law (co-authored by recent law school graduate Daniel Gibson), has launched a venture with the Urban Death Project to work for “ecologically beneficial meaningful death care” worldwide, and has recently been quoted in the national media with respect to death and internment issues.  Monday, in a short but completely compelling piece on Huffington Post, Professor Marsh took the New Jersey legislature to task for passing a law limiting churches’ ability to manufacture and sell tombstones, vaults, and private mausoleums.

As Professor Marsh clearly explains, creation and care for tombstones in church-owned and operated cemeteries is a religious practice. After all “rituals that mark the transition from life to death are a central part of most modern religions.” (I’d go even further and say that such rituals have always been a central part of all religions.)  But this new New Jersey law, Bill 3840, that was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie in March 2015, limits churches’ ability to fully participate in those rituals – even on their own land and on behalf of their own members. The law seems to be a blatant anti-competitive, special-interest-group spearheaded “win” by the Monument Builders of New Jersey, who agitated for government assistance to preserve their de facto monopoly on manufacturing graves, memorials and vaults.  Not only does this law serve no state interest at all – let alone a compelling one – it violates religious freedom in an essential and inexcusable way. Professor Marsh sums it up thus:

This law is an amazing act by the New Jersey legislature and governor. It was adopted at the behest of a group of private market participants for a reason no more noble than to protect themselves from competition. This blatantly anti-competitive effort is even more stunning because the product at issue–headstones and memorial tablets–are not regulated. No license is required to manufacture or sell them. Literally anyone in New Jersey can manufacture and sell tombstones, vaults, and private mausoleums–everyone, that is, except religious organizations and non-profit corporations that own or manage cemeteries.

Happily for those who care about justice and religious freedom and economic liberty, the Archdiosese of Newark, assisted by the Institute for Justice, have brought a lawsuit against the State of New Jersey, seeking to have the law struck down. There are several asserted grounds pursuant to which the court could invalidate the law, including violations of Due Process, Equal Protection, the Privileges and Immunities Clauses, and the Contracts Clause (Art. 1, Section 1) of the Constitution. 

Posted by Andrea Boyack on September 2, 2015 at 11:17 AM in Books, Culture, Current Affairs, Property, Religion | Permalink | Comments (1)