[lit-ideas] Re: Religion & Public Reason

  • From: "William Dolphin" <dolphinw@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 12 Aug 2010 11:04:59 -0700

Those contortions look painful, Mr. Yost. 

Aren't there easier and more immediate examples at hand? What of a law that
targeted the apparel of the Mennonite traditions? A ban on broad-brimmed
black hats and white lace caps, for instance? 

Easy enough to construct a political/national security rationale: The
Mennonite's intractable peace ministry reveals their so-called religious
beliefs to be nothing more than a subversive political ideology aimed at
undermining the defensive capability of the U.S.A.

And what difference is there from the 17th century silliness during which
Quaker refusal to doff a hat was a jailable offence? Since the Quaker
practice was explicitly aimed at subverting the social and religious order
that underpinned the British Empire, that was also deemed a legitimate
national security matter, as per this brief excerpt from Littel's _Living
Age_ (Volume 128, Issue 1658), The Quaker's Hat:

"The Quakers were incorrigible. They were sent back to prison, but not
really so much for the wearing of their hats as for the suspicion that they
were royalist emissaries affecting religious singularity in order to win
their way amongst the extreme Puritans. Indeed a Major Seely actually gave
evidence-false enough-that he had heard George Fox boast that he "could
raise forty thousand men at an hour's warning, involve the nation in blood,
and so bring in King Charles."

These first public prosecutions for the sake of the hat happened in 1656. In
the following year John ap John was put in prison at Tenby for wearing his
hat in the church. George Fox went to the mayor, justice, and governor of
the prison, and asked them why the Quaker was imprisoned, while the Puritan
minister was left in freedom; he had seen the minister "in the
steeple-house, with two caps on his head, a black one and a white one, while
John ap John had but one." The brims of the "priest's" hat were cut off; the
brims of the Quaker's hat were left on "to defend him from the weather." Was
the difference in brims cause enough for imprisonment? "These are frivolous
things," said the governor. "Why then," replied the patriarch of the
Quakers, "dost thou cast my friend into prison for frivolous things?"

Ring familiar?

In case you're wondering, I do take this personally. As a Quaker whose
lineage includes Mary Dyer, one of the "Boston Martyrs," I'm a bit sensitive
on the issue of legal penalties for religious expression.

All Best,
Wm. Dolphin
Ontario, California

-----Original Message-----
From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
On Behalf Of Eric
Sent: Thursday, August 12, 2010 1:07 AM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Religion & Public Reason

On 8/11/2010 2:05 PM, Phil Enns wrote:
> It seems to me obvious that a law banning the
> wearing of the niqab is directed at religious beliefs.

Consider my previous post, which expresses the view that the niqab is 
not a token of mainstream religious belief among Muslims, but an emblem 
of Wahabbi propaganda.

Phil is indeed producing a very coherent and thoughtful argument, based 
on fairness. Yet it is hard to create a non-Muslim thought experiment 
with which to test this fairness principle. Here's an attempt.

If radical Aryan Nation-related religious cults required women to dress 
in armored bomb-disposal suits, there would certainly be an argument in 
favor of banning that practice in certain social settings. Would that be 
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