New York City’s Mayor Takes a Washingtonian View of Religion and Politics

At an interfaith breakfast last week, the New York City mayor Eric Adams courted controversy when he not only endorsed school prayer, but dismissed concerns about the separation of church and state, declaring, “State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies.” The editors of the New York Sun praise his remarks:

Neither the word “wall” nor “separation” appears anywhere in the Constitution. Yet this confounded wall was used by the state of Maine to exclude students in a voucher program from attending their choice of a school if their choice was a religious school. It was used by Montana to do the same, as well as the state of Missouri to deny funds for playground safety at a religious school.

Yet we have been unable to find in any of those [or similar] cases a major Democratic politician siding with the religious party. We might have missed someone. The silence, though, is deafening. It strikes at the heart of New York, where beleaguered ḥasidic Jews face attacks from the state itself, demanding they educate their children in profane subjects and prohibiting the most Orthodox of Jews the right of free exercise.

So congratulations to Mr. Adams for his remarks. He expresses a modern Washingtonian view of religion and citizenship—a positive vision of the role of faith in American life. “When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools,” Mr. Adams said. He reminds us of George Washington’s farewell address, in which he urged the American people to ensure the flourishing of religious life to guarantee the wellbeing of the nation.

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports,” the first president told the nation. “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” Washington sought no persecution of secularists. Neither would he brook religious exclusion, and it’s nice to hear the Mayor of New York echo his sentiments.

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Eric Adams, George Washington, New York City, Religion and politics


The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law