February 15, 2017

"Unethical hair."

Oh, how humans have fought over hair! Ideas about the right way to cut your hair are often based on religion, but even when the ideas are not religious, people have fought with a fervor that might as well have been religious.*

I myself got caught up in The Great Secular Hair Panic of 1964 when teachers sent me to the school vice principal's office more than once because of the length of my bangs. (Let's just say The Ramones stole my hairstyle.) I challenged the authorities to justify their zealotry to override my style autonomy, and they spluttered and resorted to bogus health claims.

The point is: Hair matters. It matters in a way that's like religion and often part of religion.

Today comes the news (at BBC.com) that a "footballer" (i.e., soccer player) named Asamoah Gyan — along with 40-some others — has been deemed to have "unethical hair" under the United Arab Emirates Football Association guidelines.
Some Islamic teachings ban 'Qaza' hairstyles, where only part of the head is shaved.
Gyan's hair isn't some extreme half-shaved look, but simply a short on the sides, long on top look. (I see many American college basketball games out of the corner of my eye, and I'd guess that at least half of the men get their hair cut like this. It strikes me as neat and attractive.)

So Islam, like many other religions and things that are not even religion but unleash religion-like repression, has rules about hair. I don't remember noticing the word "Qaza" before, so I looked it up. Before I show you what I found, let me say that I think sports teams are entitled to have rules about how the players look. They have to wear uniforms, but unlike uniforms, you're stuck with the haircut outside of the game, so I'd like to see some benevolence here.**

Here's a webpage that looks like a sincere effort at explaining Qaza: "Ruling on shortening the sides of the hair more than the middle."
Al-Nasaa’i (5048) and Abu Dawood (4195) narrated from Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) saw a boy part of whose head had been shaved and part of it left. He told them not to do that and said: “Shave all of it or leave all of it.”....

[I]t says in Sharh al-Iqnaa’: Qaza’ includes shaving some places on the sides of the head, or shaving the middle and leaving the sides, as most of the Christians do, or shaving the sides and leaving the middle, as many of the foolish do, or shaving the front and leaving the back. Ahmad was asked about shaving the back of the head and he said: This is the action of the Magians, and whoever imitates a people is one of them. Thus it is known that it is not permissible to leave some parts of the hair longer than others....

Moreover, this style is not beautification for either men or women, rather it is changing the creation of Allaah and spoiling people's appearance, and it is an imitation of the West in which there is no benefit, in addition to the cost involved, as it involves a lot of effort and spending money on something that is harmful, as is well known. We advise men not to adopt this western style and we advise women to stick with that which their mothers and grandmothers did, of letting their hair grow and braiding it, as this is more beautiful....
3 things connect: 1. Subjective opinions about what looks good (aesthetics), 2. The interest in distinguishing your group from other people (politics), and 3. The words of venerated persons (historical and textual reasoning).

Do you have any strongly held views about hair, strong enough that you would impose them on anyone other than yourself? If so, does your view contain those 3 elements?
__________________________

* What is "religion" anyway? To explore the continuum from religion to absolutely no way that's religion, read my 2009 Religion and the Constitution exam, which had 5 prisoners asserting a right to be free of the prison's forced haircut policy.

** Much more could be said — in the style of that 2009 exam — about the individual reasons people have for their hairstyles and why some might deserve special treatment and others not. But once you give an exemption, it's hard to exclude somebody else from an exemption. You can't say rules are rules. It's best to begin with a rule that isn't any harsher than it needs to be. And it's especially bad to begin with a rule that has a disparate racial impact, which might be what's going on in Gyan's case. (Did the United Arab Emirates Football Association crack down on a kind of haircut that had caught on among black players?)

76 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

Comments should follow from the material raised in the post. Try to say something that furthers conversation here. If you're about to write something that you've said before in another thread, think again and figure out something more on point.

rehajm said...

Flow it, show it, long as God can grow

Oso Negro said...

Yes. I am mortally opposed to "man buns". 1) The guys who wear them look like hipster douche-bags. 2) A "man bun" wearer is almost certainly a feminist and a Democrat. 3) My high school swim coach, a former Marine DI would have stopped, looked, and shaken his head in sorrow. No words required.

Annie C said...

I have only one 'rule' about hair. Clean please. If the rancid smell assaults my senses, or there are insects or crustaceans hopping around, you gotta leave.

Other than that, to each his own. Except in the above instances, it has no bearing on me.

tcrosse said...

So it's possible to have a hair post that's not about Trump.

SayAahh said...

Hair today gone tomorrow.
It is Allah's will.

Sarah from VA said...

Most haircuts bad enough that I might want to ban them are their own punishment. Oh, you got an undercut? You are the moron who will have to shave your whole head in order to grow it out gracefully. You wanted a blue to white ombré look? Enjoy the two days that it looks cool before it starts yellowing.

I do want very badly for my husband to let me shave his head -- he has a very sexy head shape and I think he would look incredibly hot. But he's reluctant and it's his head so I'm not about to force him.

Laslo Spatula said...

So is the Muslim take on hair — ““Shave all of it or leave all of it” — a spiritual equivalent to the sixties hippies?

“Hair, flow it, show it
Long as God can grow, my hair”

”Hair” title song.

Hair as the signaler of which tribe to one belongs.
Juxtaposition.

I’m surprised Althouse didn’t include this video already.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

I see rehajm made this connection!

I am Laslo.

Lewis Wetzel said...

I was very young back then, but I seem to remember that one of the big drivers behind the revival of long hair on men in the 60s was that it showed that you were not in the military and had no intention of joining the military. I think an earring on men sent the same signal back then, plus (again, my memory is hazy) there was a story that if you were drafted, they would class you as homosexual if you had an earring and disqualify you from the draft.

Ann Althouse said...

"I do want very badly for my husband to let me shave his head -- he has a very sexy head shape and I think he would look incredibly hot. But he's reluctant and it's his head so I'm not about to force him."

Remember when Mitt Romney gave a kid a forced haircut?

Guildofcannonballs said...

As ginger, hair is too emotional a topic for me to add dispassionate (aka soulless) value to this convo at the moment, like some folks consider a step-child with my color nothing more than a punching target to beat, beat, beat.

But I can say that color is what matters most to some, like with skin. I didn't know as a child why I received all the pity and looks of condolence, it took teenaged girls to teach me, although to be fair, other teen girls taught me other life lessons too.

1. No soul is the religious component.

2. Anti-ginger is equal to the very worst of anti-black racism is the political.

3. The context of the idiom "beat him like a red-headed step child riding a rented mule" is the history I feel is ultra-valid.

Ann Althouse said...

"I’m surprised Althouse didn’t include this video already."

Laslo uses the "I'm surprised" comment format. I think I know he's doing that because he knows how I feel about that and therefore it's funny.

Laslo Spatula said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Laslo uses the "I'm surprised" comment format. I think I know he's doing that because he knows how I feel about that and therefore it's funny."

I'm surprised you would think otherwise.

I am Laslo.

MadisonMan said...

A religion that controls how you look is too intrusive. It's enough that it controls how you think.

My own hair is long long long so people can see and marvel at its abundant and luscious curliness. (Long straight hair is really boring.)

My wife wants me to get it cut.

rehajm said...

Official: Omar's hairstyle is exempt from new law, despite other players in the league with similar hairstyles having to abide by it.

The NFL can't explain what a catch is, either.

Bob Ellison said...

"Do you have any strongly held views about hair, strong enough that you would impose them on anyone other than yourself?"

I could imagine someone looking like Cousin Itt, and that might lead me to suggest that Itt should get a haircut, because we humans are biologically inclined to identify people by facial features, and hair obscures that somewhat. At the voting box, anyway.

But some people have amazing amounts of hair, and it's not their fault, and it shouldn't be our problem.

Fritz said...

Dreds. White kids with dreds. Hate 'em.

Sarah from VA said...

With Mitt Romney, it was an in-group out-group sort of thing. If you go to this school, you have to look like the in-group. Very immature (as most teenagers are).

I guess "forced" is the wrong word with my husband. He voluntarily sits down every six weeks and lets me cut his hair, knowing full well that I really want to shave it. There would be no tackling involved. But I preserve marital trust by not shaving it, all the same. (But he would look soooo hot. And stop stressing over his receding hairline.)

tcrosse said...

Major League Baseball has made the Mullet mandatory for Relief Pitchers.

Hagar said...

"Religion is a fervent belief in an improbable proposition despite all evidence to the contrary."

And "Islam" has as many, if not more, divisions than "Christianity."
Often, like Christianity, the people(s) of an area just adds Islam on top of whatever they believed before the conquering Moslems arrived.

MaxedOutMama said...

I have a very strongly held view that hair should be clean and not dangerous. Traditionally, lack of washing and lack of modern pesticides has meant that most of the human race was infected with lice. So long dirty-seeming hair may be in style at times, but that's a health hazard, and an infectious one. Longer hair may be a significant danger in the workplace/for athletes.

I would say that the best hair style for most men and women is one that's not too fussy, not dangerous given the work/life style, and easy to take care of.

Hair also does shield the top of the head, so a sides-short, longer top might be very functional.

mezzrow said...

You know that this is how Leonard Skinner got himself a rock band named after him, don't you?

It's getting more like the sixties every day...

sinz52 said...

Althouse: "Do you have any strongly held views about hair, strong enough that you would impose them on anyone other than yourself?"

Have a delousing if necessary.

MaxedOutMama said...

Vicari Valdez - but most workplace standards are really safety standards. If you work around power tools/conveyor belts, that hippie hair could kill you.

Also "it should be clean and tidy-looking" is pretty much an essential if one works with the public. Who wants to buy food at a grocery store or a restaurant if the people working there look like they have lice?

I might be more alert to the lice thing because my mother was a school teacher, and the periodic lice outbreaks at her school made us be very careful and aware.

Sarah from VA said...

Also, after having clicked through to the article and actually looked at the player in question, I am in FULL APPROVAL of that hairstyle. It looks really good on him -- though I personally would skip the design shaved in the side. But I think it would really only work on somebody with hair with some good curl or texture. Maybe the primary reason for the ruling is jealousy. That haircut looks great on a black player, but somebody with very thick, very straight hair might just look like a muppet.

Ann Althouse said...

"A religion that controls how you look is too intrusive. It's enough that it controls how you think."

But controlling the outside is what's doable. Yet it is the inside that counts.

Our venerated historical person said it best: "Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness...."

Said it best and yet I can't quote the whole sentence because it's so long I couldn't find the end of it.

Bob Ellison said...

The lice thing is less of a problem if you simply eschew contact with other people. Hermits might have lice, and tics, too, and Lyme disease, but they keep to themselves.

The hair thing, though...my big Alsatian dog's hair is all over the place. That's a problem.

walk don't run said...

Hair is sexy!! Why do you think so many religions (Catholic, Islam, Orthodox Jewish) insist that women cover their heads especially in places of worship. They dont want us to get distracted!! Finally religions are recognizing that men's hair can be sexy too. Religions are a little late to the game but something that women have secretly known forever.

Fabi said...

Unethical Hair would be a great name for a band. But not as great as Leonard Skinner.

Big Mike said...

The problem is that the Muslims of ISIS have special barbers that start with a sharp knife at your Adam's apple and cut straight back to the nape of the neck. It's quite an enforcement mechanism.

Bay Area Guy said...

My mother had long flowing brown hair, and it got stuck in my little brain that this was good, while men with long hair like the hippies were bad.

In the 1976 Olympics, an attractive ice skater, Dorothy Hamil, won the Gold medal, and she had this faddish short haircut (a wedge) and soon many of the girls in school, cut their hair like Ms. Hamil. I absolutely hated this style, and thankfully Farrah Fawcett became popular from Charlie's Angels, and reversed this trend with long feathered hair style, so I was able to regain my happiness.

Otto said...

Hair today, gone tomorrow.

Meade said...

"Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?'"

Kate said...

Hair is the one body part (if you will) that you can change without permanent effect. My 17 year old daughter just dyed her long hair blue. I've shaved my head before. Voila, it grows back. Hair is our expressive self that can change our exterior as we change our interior.

Free the Hair!

rehajm said...

Asamoah Gyan — along with 40-some others

Heh! 40-some nonconformists! Nonconformists all look alike!

Laslo Spatula said...

Some of the Hair Rules of an Eighties Hair Band:

1. Limp hair is for Heavy Metal.

2. Wherever possible stand by a fan to blow through your locks.

3. The drummer cannot have Bigger Hair than the singer.

4. The bassist cannot have Bigger Hair than the lead guitarist.

5. Never let the Girl in the Music Video have better hair than you do.

6. Always have better hair than the opening band.

7. If you are the opening band ignore number 6.

8. Run hands through hair when performing a Power Ballad. If there is too much Aqua Net for your fingers to get through your hair successfully then simply run your hands OVER your hair.

9: There is never too much Aqua Net.

10. Only date girls who use Aqua Net. That way you don't have to buy your own.

11. Because all Hair Metal lists go to Eleven.

I am Laslo.

traditionalguy said...

All Hair must be orthodox Hair. Otherwise, off with their hair! And like Henry Ford said, you can wear any color hair, as long as it is black.
And keep in mind, a fourth of our GNP is hair styling connected. That and finger nails is lot of jobs.

And then there is the Samson Option, as the IDF calls it.

Meade said...

You know who has a distinctive hair style?

Kim Jong-un.

rehajm said...

I expected the arrival of the Laslo 'carpet and drapes' mini novella by now.

Kate said...

Aaargh! "@walk don't run" ran into one of my pet peeves. Just let me hijack for one second...

Catholic women don't wear mantillas because hair is too sexy. Trads veil their heads because holy vessels in the sanctuary -- including females with wombs -- are covered.

Sarah from VA said...

Ahahaha, Meade, THAT is the point I was trying to make earlier. With curly hair, the Qaza hairstyle looks sexy. With straight, thick, hair, the Qaza hairstyle is -- Kim Jong Un. No good. They're both shaved on the sides and long on the top, but oh! What a difference.

Roger Sweeny said...

Ann, not about hair but about religion: back in law school we studied the Vietnam War conscientious objector cases which said (I simplify and probably misstate) that if you have a belief that is something like religion and that belief says you shouldn't fight in a war, then drafting you would be a violation of the First Amendment because you would be denied "free exercise of religion."

I always thought that covered so much. So an environmental law that said you couldn't make the air unhealthy would be fine but a law that, say, protected the snail darter because ecosystems must be kept pure would be an establishment of religion. Anyone who has ever belonged to an environmental organization and read their magazine knows how much religious language is in it (I am one of them).

Is there anything you could recommend on what a religion is, or why the recognition of sort-of religion didn't go much past the CO cases? Thanks if you can. If not, hey it's your blog.

tim in vermont said...

Like all purveyors of "The One True Faith," which in our country is, of course whatever the Democrats decree from moment to moment, everything is political, and every moment is a chance to demonstrate power.

Static Ping said...

To bring this into a slightly more serious area, regulation of hair by sports organizations is not terribly unusual. The New York Yankees do not allow facial hair other than conservative mustaches and as part of that policy many a player has had to chop off and/or shave off quite a bit when they joined the team. Alternatively, Charlie O. Finley of the Oakland A's encouraged his players to grow facial hair with outrageous dos, even actually paying them to do so.

As for the NFL, I do not think there are any rules on hair styles. However, they do warn players with very long hair that if it does not fit under their helmet, anything sticking out of the helmet is considered part of the uniform and it is perfectly legal to tackle someone by their hair. I suspect that the league would frown upon doing this intentionally, but when chasing down a ball carrier and trying to grab anything it is difficult to make a distinction.

As to the subject at hand, what a person looks like is a reflection of who they are and what they believe. In an Islamic country where conformity is highly prized, it is not surprising that they regulate such matters. He's fortunate he's not in Iran.

MadisonMan said...

The New York Yankees do not allow facial hair

Can I just add here that the Gonzaga Basketball player with all the facial hair looks absolutely ridiculous?

buwaya puti said...

Practice in the body changes the mind.
Thats the power of ritual, and of practice.
Practice virtue and modesty and the mind may well follow, non-hypocritically.

It is not absurd to think that changing ones hairstyle can change ones mind, or mental outlook.

buwaya puti said...

it is always also possible to practice something in pure hypocrisy and, by degrees, acquire sincerity.

Susan said...

You know who also had a distinctive hairstyle? That's right, Hitler.

Just one more way President Golden Scalp Weasel is JUST LIKE HITLER!

damikesc said...

I think I know why Progressives have such an odd affinity for Islam.

Islam wants to micro-manage your life. It's the perfect Prog religion.

Known Unknown said...

Those Damn Yankees don't allow facial hair.

tim in vermont said...

The New York Yankees used to win with their payroll, not a barber's strop.

Linda said...

Ann Althouse said - "But controlling the outside is what's doable. Yet it is the inside that counts." Great statement.

I think we all try to control others to some extent. Some people/groups are just more successful . . . or at least they think they are. I think religion is, or should be based on the inside - we all don't need to look alike. But it is much harder to control the inside!

Regarding hair - I have always taken an approach that your hair is YOUR hair - people can like how you style it and color it - or not - it doesn't really matter. When my youngest son was 8 he attended a summer day camp and really liked one of the counselors, a young college student with black and yellow hair. Although I wasn't going to permanently color his hair at age 8, I did go to Walgreen's and purchased spray in color, I still remember the name - Bengal Blue. It was a very bright vibrant blue and we sprayed it into his hair and he loved it. He wore it in his hair for about a year. He also wore the same two black tee shirts for almost the entire year - as long as they were clean - I didn't care. He's now 25 and wears his hair without color, trimmed neatly.

As a side note, I am 61 and have violet steaks and violet roots - the rest of my hair is brownish. Some people have asked me why I have purple hair, my response is why not. I color my hair, I figure I might as well pick a color from the big box of crayons instead of sticking with black, brown, red, blonde or any of these variations.

Owen said...

About your hair
I do not care
It's yours to bear
But be aware
That some may stare
And even glare
At what you bare
And think so fair

DrMaturin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DrMaturin said...

My first job was in 1971 at a supermarket. I grew up in the part of New Jersey where The Sopranos was set and it was an open secret that the store was Mob owned. Anyway, the manager had a strict rule about employee hair length. If you wanted to work for him you kept your hair short. Even though that wasn't the style at the time I didn't care, I needed the money. One day a couple of guys with shoulder length hair walked in the store and the manager immediately threw them out. He was a former boxer and looked it. You didn't mess with him.

DrMaturin said...

I should add that the hair length rule only was for guys. The women could have any length they wanted.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Hair is sexy!! Why do you think so many religions (Catholic, Islam, Orthodox Jewish) insist that women cover their heads especially in places of worship.

That's exactly the reason that an associate pastor gave for Paul's instruction to women in the church to cover their hair. In that culture women covered their hair whenever they went out in public. Having uncovered hair in a setting where there were unrelated men was equivalent to bearing your breasts in public in todays culture. The fact that they were uncovering their hair in church settings shows that they were practicing the freedom that Christianity confers. But the men of the Church couldn't handle it. Also, it would tend to scandalize non-Christians.

Unknown said...

Heh. This is an interesting topic for me, since I'm Mormon and I went to BYU for school.

Mormons don't have hair rules.... except in two places. Well, three. One is Mormon Missionaries: hair is supposed to be neat and clean, and for the men, there's a length standard (you can be bald, too). Short, well kept. Ladies are supposed to keep it clean and nice, however you determine nice. No beard for men, goatee, anything, including mustache (I believe).

Same rules at BYU, but you can have a mustache. There's a religious/health exemption for those who need it, since not all students at BYU are Mormon.

And finally, as part of the general "Look your best before God" when you attend an LDS temple, you look good: no unkempt hair if possible. Just more of a social pressure there than anything.

There are universal requirements for earrings, though: no more than one for the ladies, and none for the men.

So why the hair/grooming standards that are enforced on missionaries and BYU students? It's the same reason: Missionaries and BYU students are regarded as emissaries and ambassadors of the LDS church in many ways, so they are required to put their best foot forward. Which means hair/grooming standards to make sure you look good.

As for the earring thing: The reason explicitly given is that if you cannot obey this small, simple rule which has no salvation implications (I.E. earring in heaven is unknown), then how are you going to live the meaningful commandments?

When the earring rule came down, it was positioned as a test of faith, and I know lots of people who genuinely found it hard to do. So it was and is a very worthwhile exercise.

--Vance

Seeing Red said...

Men can't control themselves when they see sexy hair.

AHL said...

I once had a pastor who stated in a bible class that although we have freedom to have whatever hair length we want, short hair on women makes them look like men. He then looked around the room and saw that a whole bunch of women had short hair cuts and then muttered an insincere apology.

My husband wants me to cut my hair to a "mom-do" but I like long hair. However, the postpartum shed is freaking me out a bit.

SayAahh said...

Very hairy that there is not one comment about President Hair.

Earnest Prole said...

Is there anything you could recommend on what a religion is . . . ?

Years ago I heard a Stephen Carter lecture at Berkeley on the Supreme Court’s Indian peyote case and Congress' response. He wove religious, cultural, political, and legal threads into a book called The Culture of Disbelief.

DrMaturin said...

I don't understand the fashion principle that women "of a certain age" need to cut their hair short and matronly. My wife is of that age and she has beautiful long hair and I hope she keeps it that way.

mikeski said...

SayAahh said...
Very hairy that there is not one comment about President Hair.


Not when Ann said "If you're about to write something that you've said before in another thread, think again and figure out something more on point."

...everything that might be said about the work of the First Stylist has already been said by now.

Balfegor said...

Comments should follow from the material raised in the post. Try to say something that furthers conversation here. If you're about to write something that you've said before in another thread, think again and figure out something more on point.

This is not on point, but when I saw the title I thought for sure this was going to be about making wigs from prisoners' hair.

Balfegor said...

Re: Althouse:

But controlling the outside is what's doable. Yet it is the inside that counts.

Established patterns of ritual and worship create a form and a space for thoughts and feelings to take shape, though. I think of this more from the Confucian perspective than from a Christian or Islamic perspective, but ritual practice channels natural human feeling and thereby not only gives men a form to express what they do feel, but also teaches them what they ought to feel. Even something simple like reciting the pledge of allegiance every day -- sure, it's just words one mouths, but the gesture towards honouring the nation each morning creates a space in one's head for amor patriae. Maybe it fills it, maybe it doesn't, but the pattern creates a form for patriotism and makes it easier to fill.

Shibboleths like hair and dress (or sumptuary laws in general) make distinctions of class or creed salient in a way they might otherwise not be, and open up space in the mind to fill with a belief in the importance of those distinctions of class and creed.

William said...

In the days when hippies walked the earth, I had long hair. What I remember about it was how long it took to dry. It was annoying. Beards were good though. You didn't have to shave in the morning. More time in bed. I kept the beard and lost the long hair........Some hair styles are adopted to show that you're part of the tribe, and others are worn to show that you're not. After a certain age, you don't give a fig either way.

Meade said...

Nice poem
Owen

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Shibboleths like hair and dress (or sumptuary laws in general)

I would be surprised if Balfegor didn't know this, but for anyone who doesn't, the very word shibboleth is from the Hebrew Testament and is used as it is because the way you pronounced it was used to determine which group you belonged to.

'they said, "All right, say 'Shibboleth.'" If he said, "Sibboleth," because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time.'

Judges 12:6

In addition, the Hebrew Testament has rules concerning hair styles, meant to distinguish the Hebrews from surrounding tribes.

You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.

Leviticus 19:27

buwaya said...

"but ritual practice channels natural human feeling and thereby not only gives men a form to express what they do feel, but also teaches them what they ought to feel"

This is Catholic practice also. There is a huge stress on ritual.

ThreeHeaded Throop said...

The Islamic world is not easy to understand and not worth the effort to puzzle over. Who would want, for no good reason, to set themselves in unalterable enmity to any class of people? Yet this is the position in which, through their own supremacist and hostile ideology, we find ourselves. This being the case, and it seems inescapable, a simple relationship seems best for everyone: keep Muslims and the Koran away from me and keep weapons away from them. They're liable to add haircuts to the long list of reasons to cut your throat. Why wouldn't they? What's in or not in their poisonous religion matters only if it's useful in anticipating trouble from them. What they fight about internally is of small consequence.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, not about hair but about religion: back in law school we studied the Vietnam War conscientious objector cases which said (I simplify and probably misstate) that if you have a belief that is something like religion and that belief says you shouldn't fight in a war, then drafting you would be a violation of the First Amendment because you would be denied "free exercise of religion.""

You are somewhat misremembering the cases (Welsh and Seeger). These are statutory interpretation cases where the SCt stretched the language to include things that you probably wouldn't think were religion. The stretching was done apparently out of concern that not to include these other things would violate the Establishment Clause.

These cases have become the standard place to look to determine what "religion" means within the religion clauses.

"I always thought that covered so much. So an environmental law that said you couldn't make the air unhealthy would be fine but a law that, say, protected the snail darter because ecosystems must be kept pure would be an establishment of religion. Anyone who has ever belonged to an environmental organization and read their magazine knows how much religious language is in it (I am one of them)."

You should see my old Religion and the Constitution exam based on a classroom exercise that makes environmentalism seem like a religion.

"Is there anything you could recommend on what a religion is, or why the recognition of sort-of religion didn't go much past the CO cases?"

Those cases are generally important and are cited all the time.

One reason arguments haven't worked is that there's usually a question of whether something is a "substantial burden" on religion.

tcrosse said...

The "Man Bun" is OK if you don't mind looking like Ruth Gordon.

openidname said...

"Qaza’ includes . . . shaving the middle and leaving the sides, as most of the Christians do . . . ."

WTH? When did Christians ever do that? Are they thinking of tonsured monks?!?

Roger Sweeny said...

You should see my old Religion and the Constitution exam based on a classroom exercise that makes environmentalism seem like a religion.

Ann, Thanks for replying. Some of the issues raised in the exam were things I was thinking about. Since I knew you had taught Religion and the Constitution, I was wondering if you had come across anything good from non-lawyers, e.g., from sociologists or anthropologists or historians.

I suppose my too literal mind has this problem: it is pretty well established in philosophy, from David Hume to G.E. Moore, that "you can't get an ought from an is." But humans can't live without oughts and laws are based on oughts. Oughts rely on moral beliefs. Is it possible to distinguish a non-religious "this is morally right" from a religious "this is morally right" without playing stupid word games. "Oh, this isn't based on morality; this is based on ethics." Ethics is morality that dare not speak its name.