On “Christian Nations”

From First Thoughts

It used to be the case that Americans referred unselfconsciously to their country as “a Christian nation.” The phrase had multiple meanings. A few speakers, no doubt, used it as a taunt: Non-Christians (which, for many, would have meant non-Protestants) should keep quiet or get out. Others used the phrase to indicate that Christianity, in a general way, informed American law and government. That’s what Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story meant, for example, when he wrote that Christianity was part of the common law. Still others used the phrase in a theological sense: America was the New Zion, Chosen of God. Continue Reading »

Mideast Christians, Dhimmis Once More?

From Web Exclusives

Recently, an Islamist group in the Syrian opposition, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), captured the town of Raqqa and imposed on its Christian inhabitants the dhimma, the notional contract that governs relations with Christians in classical Islamic law. The dhimma allows Christian communities to reside in Muslim society in exchange for payment of a poll tax called the jizya and submission to social and legal restrictions. In Raqqa, for example, Christians have “agreed,” among other things, to pay ISIL a tax of $500 per person twice a year—poorer Christians can pay less—and to forgo public religious displays. Continue Reading »

Religion’s Social Goods

From First Thoughts

A growing number of legal scholars question whether a justification exists for protecting religion as its own category. Yes, the text of the First Amendment refers specifically to religion, they concede, but that’s an anachronism. As a matter of principle, religion as such doesn’t merit . . . . Continue Reading »

How Do You Say “Nones” in French?

From First Thoughts

From a French post describing my work on the Nones :

Est-il important de donner une définition au mot “religion”? Mark Movsesian, professeur de Droit à l’Université St. John a récemment publié un article sur la montée de la population des “Sans”, ces Américains qui se déclarent sans appartenance religieuse. Selon certaines évaluations, ils seraient 20% des adultes et, parmi les “millénaristes”, atteindraient 30%.

So it’s “les Sans.” I’d have thought it was “les Riens,” or maybe “les Aucuns.” Que sais-je? You can read the whole post in French here .

Podcast on SEBELIUS V. HOBBY LOBBY

From First Thoughts

At the Center for Law and Religion Forum, my colleague Marc DeGirolami and I have recorded a podcast on last week’s oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, the Contraception Mandate case. We address the background of the litigation, the rhetorical strategies adopted by each side, and the major doctrinal questions the Court will need to resolve. We also make predictions about how the Justices will ultimately rule. The podcast will be useful for students and others looking for an introduction to this extremely important case.

Two Updates on Syria’s Christians

From First Thoughts

Two updates on last week’s post about the persecution of Christians in Syria –one hopeful, one much less so.First the hopeful one. As I wrote last week, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting with Syrian opposition, has succeeded in capturing the . . . . Continue Reading »

In Syria, the Dhimma Returns

From First Thoughts

This month, the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year. The latest news is that the government has recaptured the border town of Yabrud, an important opposition stronghold. In fact, Yabrud is where the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate in the opposition, had been holding hostage a group of Greek . . . . Continue Reading »