Table of Contents

First Amendment Categories of Harm

Stephanie H. Barclay, BYU Law School

Shari'a as Taboo of Modern Law: Halal Food, Islamophobia, and China

Matthew S. Erie, University of Oxford, University of Oxford - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies


"First Amendment Categories of Harm" Free Download
95 Indiana Law Journal (2020 Forthcoming)
BYU Law Research Paper No. 19-12


What role should harm to third parties play in the Government’s ability to protect religious rights? The intuitively appealing harm principle has animated new theories advanced by scholars who argue that religious exemptions are indefensible whenever they result in cognizable harm to third parties. This third-party harm theory is gaining traction in some circles, particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Masterpiece Cakeshop and Hobby Lobby. While focusing on harm appears at first to provide an appealing simple and neutral principle for avoiding other difficult moral questions, the definition of harm itself operates on top of a deep moral theory about what counts as harm and why. Consequently, multiple scholars advancing iterations of these theories use “harm? as a term of art to mean very different things. This in turn results in scholars talking past each other and trading on a superficially simple idea that turns out to be incredibly complex. For this reason, the harm principle has proven unworkable in other contexts, including criminal and environmental law. This Article highlights the flaws of this approach in the religious context by measuring the theory against its own ends, including the theory’s failure to account for harms this approach would cause for religious minorities and other vulnerable groups.

Refuting the unhelpful fixation on the mere presence of generic harm, this Article makes two important contributions, one descriptive and one normative. First, this Article carefully describes the nuanced ways that courts classify and weigh different types of harm, and it identifies four categories: (1) prohibited harm (meaning a type of harm that is categorically impermissible); (2) presumptive harm (meaning a type of harm that is presumptively, though not dispositively prohibited); (3) relevant harm (meaning harm that courts will assess alongside other important factors, but whose weight is context-specific), and (4) inadmissible harm (meaning harm that is given no weight regardless of how severely or disproportionately it is experienced by third parties). This Article demonstrates how these categories of harm are not limited to religious exemptions, but are in fact common to all First Amendment rights. Further, this descriptive framework sheds light on which sorts of harms matter, and when, and it highlights the competing harms that always arise when any rights are protected. Second, this Article argues that moving beyond a false dichotomy of harm versus no harm allows one to ask much more fruitful normative questions, including whether there is a justifiable tradeoff between the specific harm and the social goods it provides, whether institutions can be modified to mitigate avoidable harm, and whether disproportionate harms can be distributed in more just ways. This Article offers examples of how these necessary normative questions are already woven into the legal framework that governs many sorts of religious exemptions.

"Shari'a as Taboo of Modern Law: Halal Food, Islamophobia, and China" 
Journal of Law and Religion, Forthcoming

MATTHEW S. ERIE, University of Oxford, University of Oxford - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

Why is shari'a the taboo of modern law? This Article examines the “spread of halal? controversy in China as a window to assess how nativist public opinion influences state law and policy whereas state law is foreclosed to providing protection to rights provided for in shari'a. Among Chinese Muslims (Hui), qingzhen (lit. “pure? plus “true?) or “halal? is the kernel of their localized shari'a, and one that prohibits consuming pork. The symbol qingzhen has proliferated in the course of China’s economic modernization such that it pervades the public sphere, creating anxiety among Han Chinese that Chinese society and government is becoming “Islamicized.? Hui fear that the profusion of qingzhen foments food insecurity and endangers truth-in-labeling. In response, they have sought greater protection for their diluted core symbol in national legislation – attempts which have only exacerbated Hui-Han relations. Based on observations from over seven years of field research and interviews with Hui legal entrepreneurs, and drawing from the anthropology of taboo, I explain the debate in China by taking the Hui idea of shari'a as a taboo to reflexively think about how secular non-Muslim states regard shari'a as the taboo of modern law.


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Islamic Law and Law of the Muslim World is an interdisciplinary forum for posting abstracts, works-in-progress, and completed scholarly works on any matter of public or private law, legal theory, legal practice or policy that bears on the modern or pre-modern Muslim world, such as studies of:
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