Guest Blog: Michael Biral: Do religious institutions have the right to shape public policy?

Blog post:

Law is taught as something that comes from a concrete set of ideals. In America, we are taught that the Constitution and Bill of Rights were heavily influenced by the enlightenment. Our system of government was influenced by the ancient Greeks and Romans. What seems to be missing is the explanation of the myths behind our laws. I believe the big idea of this course so far has been to point out that our system of law has been influenced not only by the things we can see (prior laws, thinkers, etc) but also by the things we cannot see such as religion and mythology, without these we would not have our laws. Without Myths, we would not have laws.

I feel that the Robert Cover article expands on this idea. Cover argues that the courts should take the perspective of Roger Williams when dealing with issues of religion. The state should stay out of religious matters to protect religion. This contrasts with the Jeffersonian model of religious freedom, that enacts a wall of separation between church and state. While Cover makes a compelling argument for the freedom of religion from state intrusion. it does raise some questions. Do “Antinomians” have to accept state law if they are receiving funding from the state? No one should dispute religious orders to abide by their own laws when they are living in separate communities; however, does this give religious groups the right to ignore civil rights legislation such as was the case with Bob Jones University? Cover was writing this piece at a time before social issues such as gay marriage and gay rights became hot button issues, but the article raises the question to me that, do religious organizations whom believe these acts to be immoral have the right to shape policy that will in essence make their laws, laws of the land? Is one thing for a religious group to be asked to live out their religious beliefs, but what would Cover say to those groups that try to impose their religious law on others that do not share their religious beliefs? Would those groups argue that the laws they disagree with are not valid because they ignore the nomos and narrative of religion and myth?

From the Daily Mail: News on the Mind and the Alphabet

Why just typing ‘LOL’ makes you happy: People like words made of letters from the right-hand side of the QWERTY keyboard
UPDATED: 09:11 EST, 8 March 2012

The QWERTY keyboard is shaping how we react to words, say scientists – the effect might be caused by the fact that it’s slightly easier to type with the right hand, as there are fewer letters for touch-typists on the right-hand side of the keyboard
Many workers spend hours a day in front of a QWERTY keyboard on a PC – now scientists have found that the keyboard itself is shaping how we react to words.
Oddly, people tend to react more positively to words filled with letters from the right-hand side of a QWERTY keyboard.
Words from the left side make people feel negative emotions.
Taking a rather unscientific sample, it does seem to make sense – ‘Pool’ is filled with right-side letters, whereas ‘tax’ is all left-side.
The effect seems to come from the keyboard itself – and is dubbed ‘the QWERTY effect’.
The cognitive scientists think that the effect might be caused by the fact that it’s slightly easier to type with the right hand, as there are fewer letters for touch-typists on the right-hand side of the keyboard.
Scientists tested how people reacted using a mix of real words, new words such as ‘LOL’ and even made-up words such as ‘Pleek’.
They found that their volunteers tended to rate ALL words more positively if they came from the right-hand side of the keyboard – but the effect was particularly pronounced with computer-era words such as ‘LOL’.

Notice anything odd? The silly signs that don’t quite get the message across
Words such as ‘LOL’, coined after language ‘shifted’ to the world of keyboards, are particularly vulnerable to the keyboard effect.
LOL is rarely spoken, and mostly typed.

Words with many ‘left side’ letters evoke negative emotions – and words with right side evoke positive feelings, in this slightly unscientific sample

‘When people type words composed of more right-side letters, they have more positive feelings, and when they type words composed of more left-side letters, they have more negative feelings,’ say cognitive scientists Kyle Jasmin of University College London and Daniel Casasanto of The New School for Social Research, New York.
‘People responsible for naming new products, brands, and companies might do well to consider the potential advantages of consulting their keyboards and choosing the ‘right’ name,’ say the researchers.

Read more:

Guest Blog: Sahar Khan, “Born to Resist Injustice”

The ideas discussed in class have incited me to view society with a different outlook. Society is now an intelligent mass that constructs the world. Evidence lies in the timeline project where people throughout time have been participating in acts that may have affected our customs today.  The Time line project introduced me to the idea of picking out important worldly occurrences that have had impact on our interaction with the law.  The project also led to me to ask, “To what extent global events impact me right now? Do these legal processes have to take place at a national level to influence people or can it be local? Can just one person’s action mold our lives in some way?” For example the act of one Tunisian man (Muhammad Bouzizi) giving up his life had empowered nations to over throw their corrupt rulers of years. Not only was this an international occurrence but the revolutionary spirit empowered the people of Wisconsin too. Though the bodies of these movements share a different nomos—it seems as if we all share a similar human characteristic of justice—as if we are innately born to resist injustice.

We may share a different nomos but then how come we humans are so alike in some respects? A normative universe evolves with time; the implementations of practices are dependent on time and the people’s acceptance of them. The nomos is the normative universe that is encircling us with our experiences, beliefs and culture etc.; and these factors will impact our everyday decisions (law making processes). For instance an act of destructing a Temple had led religious leaders to change their old philosophy to better survive, in a different time among a changed society. They first understood that the philosophy of the world stands upon the Torah, temple worship and deeds of kindness. This ideal was upheld when the Temple stood tall but in its destruction the world now stood on justice truth and peace. It was understood that in order for their belief system to survive it was necessary to uncover the basic fundamentals of the old message in to three new Jewish principles that would easily interact with a changed society.

Another example of evolutionary law is the Inheritance rights of women in early Salic law and the later legal system. At a time when property amassed to wealth and power, women could not acclaim any land if they had brothers. After many years Salic law was given no precedence. But in the 14th century French nobles had revived the Salic law of inheritance which led to a dispute among two possible heirs.  One heir claimed to be the rightful monarch but because his blood line came from a woman, he was given no right to succession. This shows the evolutionary dynamics of law. A group of French nobles could basically implement and modify an old law only because it held some sort of historical value to the people.

In essences we learn the relationship between society and law and most inspiring is to know that we the common people are the true implementers of law—as we practice and abide. But if we seek to change, there is no doubt we can’t.

The Middle Ages, Renaissances and Early Modern World

[Note: Syllabus change: You will have the reading/writing day on March 8 instead of March 15. For this week’s blog, you will comment on March 6 and the new March 13 reading. The 15th will be our roundtable and no blogging will be due. This will conclude Project 2.]

Mar. 6: Medieval to Modern Dichotomies

            Shlain, 292-322.

Mar. 8: No class. Research/Writing Day

March 13: Rebellion and Reorganization

          Shlain, 323-392.

on two out of the four categories (Second Project):

  • 3 factual errors and where the correct information can be found
  • 3 omissions (things you needed to know to evaluate his argument)
  • 3 areas of logic or reasoning with you agree or disagree and a brief explanation as to why (see instructions for the Second Project, below)
  • 1 book or article on the week’s topic written after 1990 that he could have cited in his bibliography but did not.