Subscribe: Reason Magazine - Topics > Religion
http://reason.com/topics/topic/204.xml
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
Tags:
beliefs  case  court  freedom  gay  government schools  government  law  laws  people  public  religious  schools  state  supreme court 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Reason Magazine - Topics > Religion

Religion



All Reason.com articles with the "Religion" tag.



Published: Thu, 19 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2017 22:49:56 -0400

 



North America's First 'Burka Ban' Passed by Quebec Liberals in Name of 'Religious Neutrality'

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:13:00 -0400

(image) This week, Quebec banned people working in public service or using public services from wearing veils or any sort of facial covering, the first such ban in North America, one echoing "burqa ban" policies passed across Europe.

Ushered in by Quebec's Liberal Party as a way to "foster social cohesion" and "religious neutrality," and to combat Islamophobia, the law largely takes aim at Muslim women who veil their faces in public. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. explains that under the new "religious neutrality legislation" women can apply for exemptions—essentially a special license to wear a burqa or niqab that they would have to display to public officials.

Critics, like Shaheen Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, question the religious neutrality narrative. "I define neutrality as being able to do what I choose and you are able to do what you choose and everyone else is able to do what they choose and that's neutral. Accepting each other as we are," Ashraf told CTV Montreal.

Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called it "an unnecessary law with a made-up solution to an invented problem. We don't have hordes of women in niqabs trying to access or work in public services."

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and others have questioned how the law would actually work in practice. "So what does it mean now? Niqab police as bus drivers?" Coderre told CTV. "What are we going to do in libraries? And refuse to provide them with services? If [a woman is] freezing with children, say no? You have to pull that out. I don't think the doability is there."

"Bus drivers are now being empowered to decide who gets a ride based on their understanding of the nuances of Muslim head scarves," pointed out Allison Hanes in the Montreal Gazette. "Are they going to get training on the difference between a hijab and a niqab? This law could not be worse for civil rights or social cohesion."

"Telling a woman how to dress—whether she's wearing a bikini or a burqa—is the opposite of feminism," continued Hanes. "And using the full weight of the state to marginalize one particular group, no matter how much thou doth protest that a law applies to everyone equally, is reprehensible."

Although Quebec politicians pushed the new policy as a feminist one, Canadian feminists commenting on it are largely unimpressed. "A bill that legislates clothing ends up linking emancipation of women to how little or how much they wear," wrote Shree Paradkar in The Star. "In doing so, it works against choice" and "should have been rejected."




Are Free Minds and Free Markets Compatible With Christianity?

Sat, 14 Oct 2017 14:50:00 -0400

Is libertarian political philosophy intractably at odds with the Christian faith, as some folks seem to think? Over the last year, I've spoken with countless practicing Christians who also fall into what might be called the small-l libertarian camp. A few prefer "classical liberal" while others identify as full-on anarcho-capitalists. Many work in the so-called liberty movement, but there were also business owners and writers, musicians and scientists, scholars and priests. Virtually all see markets, largely or entirely unfettered by the state, as the best mechanism we have for empowering humans to grow and thrive. I asked them to explain, in their own words, how they manage to reconcile two worldviews that many would have us believe are hopelessly in conflict. Below is a sampling of what I heard. "In my mind, capitalism is what happens when you have the absence of initiated force, and that's perfectly compatible—beautifully compatible—with Christianity. Capitalism simply means the freedom of individuals to make contracts and to engage others in a peaceful and voluntary way. That's precisely what Christ taught." —Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education and author of Rendering Unto Caesar: Was Jesus A Socialist? "If someone says to you 'be my friend' and points a gun to you, that is not a good start of a relationship. God offers us his friendship. We have a choice to respond or not. But if it's to make any sense, it has to be free. You have to be able to say yes and you have to be able to say no. And here is the really interesting thing: God will respect your decision even when he knows it's not a good idea. "So here's the point: If God, who from our perspective is the creator of the universe—he has literally made us, and in that sense, if anybody owns anything, God owns the universe—and indeed, from our theology, having died on the cross for us, he owns us again. So God, who owns us twice over, and who in a 'my house, my rules' way has the right, if anyone has the right, to tell us what we may and may not do and indeed to force us not to do it—if he's not willing to do that, how can anyone have the right to do it?" —Gerard Casey, philosophy professor emeritus at University College Dublin and associated scholar at the Mises Institute "Who nailed Jesus to the cross? The state! ... The devil went up on a mountaintop with Jesus and he said, 'All this is mine.' He was talking about all the kingdoms. I would argue that earthly government is the last thing I should be supporting as a Christian." —Eric July, frontman of the libertarian rock/rap group BackWordz, asked how he reconciles his faith with anarcho-capitalism "The modern welfare state in the United States has demonstrated one thing very clearly: that it doesn't transition people permanently out of poverty. And that needs to be the goal. I think Christians and non-Christians alike can agree: We should help people who are marginalized. But the question is, OK, how do you do that? If you look at the church and nonprofit organizations, combined with a really thriving economy, you have the best antidote to long-term poverty that we've ever known." —Anne Rathbone Bradley, vice president of economic initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics "Historically speaking, virtually all the great advocates of liberty were Christian: Aquinas, Montesquieu, Locke, Tocqueville. It really was only in the modern world, with the Enlightenment, when you developed a naturalist group that broke off from the natural law tradition and were advocating liberty based on utilitarian arguments." —David Theroux, founder and president of the Independent Institute in California and publisher of the new book Pope Francis and the Caring Society "The arrogant assumption [on the Christian left] is that if you're not advocating for government to be the normative way in which the poor are helped, then you're not a Catholic. And that idea is not Catholic. The first people to act on behalf of the vulnerable should be ind[...]



Christian Cake Bakers and Gay Coffee Shop Owners: Why Freedom of Association Is for Everybody

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 12:50:00 -0400

A gay coffee shop owner in Seattle is getting viral attention for loudly ejecting a group of aggressive anti-abortion Christian activists from his business. Members of Abolish Human Abortion had been handing out rather vivid posters outside the shop that seem to link gay acceptance to the prevalence of abortion. They then came inside Bedlam Coffee and received service—until shop owner Ben Borgman angrily threw them out, declaring their views and their posters offensive. Watch his profanity-laced tirade below: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FRUJmGzV9Ko" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> It's very easy to watch Borgman's rant and decide that, no, his shop shouldn't have to play host to a group of people who were just outside handing out fliers that he found offensive and that he felt attacked him personally. It's also easy to watch it and immediately think about the upcoming Supreme Court case about whether the government can force a baker to prepare wedding cakes for gay couples. And some, like the legal scholar Jonathan Turley, are doing exactly that. If a coffee shop owner doesn't want to serve a group whose positions he finds disagreeable and offensive, is that subtantially different from a baker refusing to do work for a same-sex marriage he finds offensive? Washington State's public accommodation laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of "creed," so Borgman cannot simply boot people out of his coffee shop for having Christian religious beliefs. But over at The Stranger, a Seattle alt-weekly, Katie Herzog argues that this case isn't religious discrimination but a disagreement about political positions: Not believing that woman should have autonomy over their own bodies is not actually a protected class in America, much like...gays. Looks like these folks have more in common than they thought. She's saying that Borgman isn't kicking them out because they're Christians, which would violate the state's laws; he's kicking them out because he finds their extreme anti-abortion positions offensive. The fact that these positions are informed by their religious beliefs is not relevant. What's fascinating about that argument is how it so closely tracks the response from bakers and florists who don't want to offer their services for gay weddings. They say that they're not discriminating against gay people: Gay people are more than welcome to come into their shops and buy cakes and flowers. Rather, they object to the concept of gay marriage and to the position that it should be treated similarly to heterosexual marriage, and they do not want to be forced to produce goods that suggest that they support it. By trying to come up with a justification as to why Borgman should allowed to boot these guys from his coffee shop without running afoul of state antidiscrimination laws, Herzog is essentially making the same argument: that this isn't discrimination against people for their identities, but discrimination against certain views. That's the sort of weird semantic contortions that come when you try to police the circumstances in which people can decline to do business with someone else. People want to preserve their own right to refuse to associate with others while limiting the others' ability to shun them. Using government authority to do this gives people an incentive to look for ways to punish people with whom you have disagreements. But it's more responsible, ethical, and most of all mature to suggest that both the coffee shop owner and the baker should be able to decide for themselves when they'll extend their hospitality. With neither the coffee shop nor the baker does a refusal to do business with these customers cause real, recognizable harms that justify government intervention.[...]



Do Abortion Rules Violate Satanists' Religious Freedom? Missouri Supreme Court to Decide

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 10:35:00 -0400

The Supreme Court of Missouri has agreed to hear an interesting religious and reproductive liberty case. Brought by "Mary Doe," a member of the Satanic Temple, the case challenges an "informed consent" law requiring a 72-hour waiting period, an ultrasound, and support for statements like "life...begins at conception" before a woman can get an abortion. "The case would be the first of its kind to be heard by either the Missouri Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court," notes the Kansas City Star. Doe claims the requirements violate her right to religious freedom, as Satanists do not believe that life begins at conception. The first court to hear the case rejected Doe's constitutional claims, but an appeals court last week decided Doe's claims might have merit. It presents "a contested matter of right that involves fair doubt and reasonable room for disagreement," the Western District Court of Appeals ruled unanimously, ordering the case be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Missouri Supreme Court. Missouri regulations require that any woman seeking an abortion must first view an active ultrasound, wait 72 hours after an initial doctor's visit, and sign papers declaring that they have read and understand state-mandated statements that personhood begins at conception and that abortion at any stage terminates "the life of a separate, unique, living human being." "The sole purpose of the law is to indoctrinate pregnant women into the belief held by some, but not all, Christians that a separate and unique human being begins at conception," wrote the appeals court. "Because the law does not recognize or include other beliefs, [Doe] contends that it establishes an official religion and makes clear that the state disapproves of her beliefs." Despite its provocative name, the Satanic Temple doesn't actually worship Satan. There's no ritual sacrifice or other trappings of Satanic lore. It's more of a mischievous and high-concept anti-religion, opposed to the tenets of organized Christianity and their infiltration of American laws. Its description of its mission actually sounds mighty libertarian, as well as steeped in traditional morality: to "encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will." "The first conception was in response to George W. Bush's creation of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives," one of the Satanic Temple's founders told The New York Times in 2015: "I thought, 'There should be some kind of counter.'" He hit on the idea of starting a faith-based organization that met all the Bush administration's criteria for receiving funds, but was repugnant to them. "Imagine if a Satanic organization applied for funds," he remembered thinking. "It would sink the whole program." Both founders consider themselves "atheistic Satanists," with no more literal belief in Satan than they do in a literal God. To them, Satanism represents "the solidarity of outsiders, those judged and excluded by the mainstream," explains the Times. In addition to challenging religiously motivated abortion regulations, the Satanic Temple has also been active in fighting things like prayer in public schools, prayer at City Council meetings, a biblical statute on Oklahoma statehouse grounds, courthouse Nativity Scenes, and public schools distributing the Bible to their students.[...]



Sessions Releases Guidance on Protecting Religious Freedom; LGBT Groups Fear ‘Permission to Discriminate’

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 16:45:00 -0400

Today, as President Donald Trump's administration is announcing that employers with religious concerns will have an easier time getting exemptions from the birth control mandate, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has released a lengthy memo describing the Justice Department's approach to religious freedom. The timing is most likely not a coincidence. Sessions' 25-page memo discusses concerns about when the federal government may or may not impose mandates that violate the religious beliefs of businesses, and one of his points is bluntly titled "Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking of the public square, or interacting with government." It references the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case rejecting contraception mandates. The memo itself does not specifically reference gay or transgender people, but given that its instructions are about how Department of Justice agencies should take religious freedom issues in mind when enforcing laws, contracting, and distributing grants, there was an immediate concern from LGBT activist groups and allies that this was the "permission to discriminate" they've suspected the administration had been planning all along, but had not yet come. Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, certainly didn't hold back in blasting the potential impact on gay and transgender people: "This blatant attempt to further Donald Trump's cynical and hateful agenda will enable systematic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families. Donald Trump and Mike Pence have proven they will stop at nothing to target the LGBTQ community and drag our nation backwards. We will fight them every step of the way." It's actually not terribly clear, though, that this memo makes much of a difference in how the current Justice Department will tackle LGBT discrimination issues because of how it is already tackling LGBT issues. Understand, the Justice Department under Sessions is already reversing many of the positions it held under President Barack Obama. The Justice Department is now taking the position that federal civil rights laws do not include gay and transgender discrimination under the aegis of sex-based discrimination. The Trump administration has already retracted the guidance from the Obama administration mandating that schools accommodate transgender students in use of public restrooms and locker rooms. And the Justice Department in an upcoming Supreme Court case has taken the side of a baker in Colorado who declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple (Disclosure: so has the Reason Foundation). The Human Rights Campaign worries about some additional outcomes, though: That government officials themselves will be able to refuse to do their jobs when it comes to dealing with gay or transgender people (see: Kim Davis); and that federal contractors and faith-based organizations like hospitals would be able to discriminate against LGBT people and be able to refuse to provide services even in a crisis. So forget the wedding cakes: They're concerned about people getting turned away from hospitals or homeless shelters. I don't want to dismiss the possibility of that happening, but it's important to note that religious freedom laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act do not just give blanket permission for people to violate the law by wrapping themselves in some holy scripture. Sessions knows that, and part of his memo explains what government officials have to show if they're going to try to overcome a person's religious objections: So if the government can make a case that it has a compelling interest (like protecting public safety) and that it's taking the least restrictive means to do so it can require people to obey a law that hospitals not turn away gay or transgender people, for example. The unanswerable concern, though, is whether a Sessions-run Justice Department actually w[...]



The Times Thinks Deregulation Is Meddling If It Helps Religious People or Gun Owners

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 13:40:00 -0400

(image) A New York Times story about Donald Trump's unlikely alliance with social conservatives bizarrely claims that loosening rules to which they object contradicts his deregulatory stance. Under the headline "Where Trump's Hands-Off Approach to Governing Does Not Apply," Ben Protess, Danielle Ivory, and Steve Eder report that the president is pursuing an "aggressive regulatory agenda" on behalf of socially conservative causes that "runs counter to the Trump administration's less-is-more credo about government meddling." Yet almost none of the examples they cite fit that description.

When the administration sides with religious groups that object to Obamacare's contraceptive mandate, it is supporting regulatory relief, not additional government meddling. Likewise when it rejects an interpretation of the Civil Rights Act that would bar employers from discriminating against workers based on sexual orientation. Whether or not you agree with those positions, they are perfectly consistent with deregulation.

Protess et al. also argue that reducing restrictions on firearms (which they debatably deem socially conservative) amounts to government meddling. The Trump administration has rejected a broad definition of the "fugitives from justice" who are forbidden to buy guns under federal law and abandoned a policy that prohibited guns on land managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, making the rules similar to those that apply in national parks. Again, you may or may not approve of those shifts, but they clearly resulted in more freedom, not less.

Cutting U.S. aid to foreign organizations that promote abortion is a kind of restriction, but it's a condition attached to the use of taxpayer money, as opposed to a direct mandate or prohibition. A "less-is-more credo" regarding the proper scope of government surely does not require using taxpayer money to promote abortion in other countries. Nor does it demand that guidelines for federal grants aimed at helping "victims of commercial sexual exploitation" specifically mention LGBTQ youth, which they no longer do under Trump.

The clearest example of new restrictions on freedom mentioned by the Times is Trump's crackdown on immigration, which is not unambiguously a favor to the religious right. Protess et al. note that some religious conservatives "disagreed with his move to end the program that blocks young undocumented immigrants from being deported." Opponents of ending Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals reportedly included Jared Kushner, "Mr. Trump's Orthodox Jewish son-in-law," whom the Times mentions as a liaison between the administration and religious conservatives but whose personal politics are, like his wife's, socially liberal.

The Times perceives "a fundamental repurposing of the federal bureaucracy to promote conservative social priorities." It may be surprising that a serial adulterer, proud womanizer, notorious liar, and incorrigible braggart with no firm ideology or theology has emerged as a champion of social conservatives. But it is hardly surprising that after adopting that role, Trump would use his powers as president to shift policy in a conservative direction, just as Barack Obama used his to shift policy in a progressive direction. There is nothing scandalous about that, except to those who take it for granted that the former agenda is altogether appalling while the latter is entirely enlightened.




Young Louis Farrakhan Sings a Calypso Song About Transgender Surgery

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 10:59:00 -0400

(image) Before Louis Farrakhan joined the Nation of Islam, he was a calypso singer billed as The Charmer. And in 1954, inspired by Christine Jorgensen's sex reassignment surgery, the future recipient of the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights wrote and sang "Is She Is, Or Is She Ain't," a topical tune about "this modern surgery/it change him from he to she":

He tried to live the life of a man
But that was not in accord with nature's plan
So he underwent this operation
And came back home to shock the nation
But behind that lapstick, rouge, and paint
I got to know: Is she is, or is she ain't?

More recently, Farrakhan has described such transitions as "sci­ence that is so wicked," so I think it's fair to say he was a bit more progressive on the subject 63 years ago. To hear the whole song, click below:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QB-gTmztgVk" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">

(Hat tip: Brad Rogers. The B-side is about zombies; you can hear that here. For another religious leader's views on trans issues, go here. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)




Brickbat: Religious War

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has fined St. John the Baptist Catholic Church some $600 for violating state alcohol laws. Some of the volunteer servers at a church fundraiser apparently imbibed some of the alcohol they were serving while "on duty."




Brickbat: There Will Be None of That Now

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) In Indiana, Mount Vernon schools superintendent Shane Robbins says an elementary school teacher was wrong to send a note home to parents telling them their children should not talk about God at school. Officials say students can discuss religion or other personal beliefs as long as they do not interrupt class.




Brickbat: The Terrorists Have Won

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) In Australia, a court has upheld a decision by a local government to bar the construction of a synagogue near Bondi Beach. Officials say the synagogue could become a target for terrorists, endangering the neighborhood as well as beach-goers




Sloppy History in The New York Times

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 23:30:00 -0400

Katherine Stewart has an op-ed in today's New York Times that purports to expose the sordid history of the phrase "government schools." The "attacks on 'government schools,'" she claims, "have a much older, darker heritage. They have their roots in American slavery, Jim Crow-era segregation, anti-Catholic sentiment and a particular form of Christian fundamentalism." How reliable a historian is Stewart? Not very. Take this passage, for just one example: One of the first usages of the phrase "government schools" occurs in the work of...the Presbyterian theologian A.A. Hodge....Hodge decided that the problem lay with public schools' secular culture. In 1887, he published an influential essay painting "government schools" as "the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of antisocial nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen." Here's a fun fact about Archibald Alexander Hodge: He wasn't opposed to government schools. His great fear was that the schools would be secularized, and to prevent that end he wanted to keep them under strictly local control. But he didn't want to detach them from the government. As he wrote in his 1887 essay "Religion in the Public Schools," he wanted legislators to let the system of public schools be confined to the branches of simply common school education. Let these common schools be kept under the local control of the inhabitants of each district, so that the religious character of each school may conform in all variable accidents to the character of the majority of the inhabitants of each district. Let all centralizing tendencies be watchfully guarded against. Since Hodge is supposed to be Stewart's example of "anti-Catholic sentiment," I should note that his article actually speaks rather respectfully of Catholics. If you're looking for a cause with a special appeal to anti-Catholic bigots, look not to the critics of consolidated public education but at the public schools themselves: In that era they were often deliberately used as tools of Protestantization. So what about those quotes in Stewart's op-ed? They appear to come from a lecture Hodge wrote around the same time, titled "The Kingly Office of Christ." The phrase "government schools" appears in it precisely once: "The Protestants object to the government schools being used for the purpose of inculcating the doctrines of the Catholic Church, and Romanists object to the use of the Protestant version of the Bible and to the inculcation of the peculiar doctrines of the Protestant churches." The other phrase that Stewart quotes comes several pages later: I am as sure as I am of the fact of Christ's reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, would be the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of antisocial nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen. So it's not government schools per se that he thinks are the problem; it's "a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion." He's not criticizing the idea of public schools; he's criticizing centralized, secularized schools. If you're searching for someone who said "government schools" in a sneering way, this is a dead end. As it happens, I do know of a 19th-century figure who used the phrase "governmental schools" sneeringly. What's more, he did it in 1858, three decades before the lecture that Stewart called "one of the first usages of the phrase 'government schools.'" Here's what he said: Question.—Are you in favor of common schools being supported by government? Answer.—I am opposed to all governmenta[...]



Supreme Court to Hear Case on Gay Wedding Cakes

Mon, 26 Jun 2017 10:38:00 -0400

(image) Is a wedding cake speech? When a baker makes a wedding cake, is he or she declaring support for the couple's marriage? Can a baker decline to bake a cake for a gay couple (and defy a state's anti-discrimination laws) because he or she objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds?

Today, the Supreme Court announced they would be taking up a case that may answer these questions for anyone who provides services for gay weddings. This is likely to be a case with a narrow ruling about religion and compelled speech and what constitutes an artistic expression. Don't expect a broad ruling that would change the nature of state-level public accommodation laws one way or the other.

In Masterpiece Bakeshop Ltd. Vs Colorado Civil Rights Commission the owner of a bakery in Lakewood, Colo., declined to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple because he had religious objections to same-sex marriage. In 2014 he was ruled to have violated the state's anti-discrimination laws on public accommodation.

He is one of a handful of similarly-minded business owners who offer their goods and services to weddings but oppose same-sex marriage recognition. We've seen other cases involving bakers, florists, photographers, and owners of private wedding venues.

The Supreme Court had previously turned away challenges to state-level antidiscrimination laws, but the court has been sitting on this case for months without deciding one way or another if they'd take it. Today was the last day in this session for the court to report out whether they would grant the case. After months of rescheduling, they've decided that they will.

The case will in all likelihood be very narrowly focused on whether the free speech and free religion rights of bakery owner Jack Phillips have been violated. The Supreme Court will have to consider whether the making of a wedding cake is a form of artistic impression and whether, therefore, laws forcing Phillips to serve same-sex couples constitutes compelled speech.

Historically, as I explained about these cases in 2015, courts have not determined cakes themselves to be expressive activity (therefore not protected speech). But text, writing, and imagery placed on the cake can be considered speech, and a bakery cannot be forced to communicate text or images they deem offensive. The question is whether the creation of a wedding cake itself is a form of speech.

Libertarians hoping for a broader ruling related to whether public accommodation laws violate the free association rights of business owners will probably be disappointed. There is zero chance this court is going to rule in such a way that alters state-level public accommodation laws. This case will mostly revolve around whether the activities of people like bakers and florists are considered artistic speech and therefore are possibly exempt from such laws.

Read more about the case itself from SCOTUSblog here.




God and Man at the FBI

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 06:00:00 -0400

The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11, edited by Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman. University of California Press, 376 pages, $29.95 Ever since FBI Director James Comey staggered into the spotlight during last year's presidential campaign, critics have been comparing him to the most infamous man ever to hold Comey's job. "I think this is sort of a flashback to the days of J. Edgar Hoover," the journalist turned academic Sanford Ungar told The New York Times last October. "I don't mean to smear Comey, and it may be an unfair comparison. But Hoover would weigh in on issues without warning or expectation." Comey's comments about the Hillary Clinton email investigation do highlight how a law enforcement agency can improperly influence public opinion. But there are some pretty big differences between his behavior and that of his predecessor. For one thing, his actions last year were public, a fact that triggered a national debate over their propriety and eventually led the Justice Department's inspector general to launch an investigation of how his agency handled its probe of Hillary Clinton's emails. For another, that probe was a legitimate criminal investigation. Hoover's FBI, by contrast, secretly monitored the non-criminal personal and political conduct of U.S. citizens. Among them: first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy, Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and syndicated columnist Joseph Alsop. Hoover even ordered his agents to conduct a content analysis of Walt Kelly's comic strip Pogo to ascertain whether one of the strip's animal characters, based on the FBI director, portrayed him in a positive or derogatory light. The information acquired in these surveillance expeditions was maintained in closed FBI files, and much of it was used to advance Hoover's political agenda through leaks to favored reporters, governors, members of Congress, and the White House—on the strict condition that the recipient not disclose the FBI's assistance. The scope of Hoover's abuses did not become widely known until the unprecedented hearings conducted by the so-called Church Committee in 1975–76. It has been advanced since then through a mixture of journalism, scholarship, and Freedom of Information Act requests. Now a new book, edited by Sylvester Johnson of Northwestern University and Steven Weitzman of the University of Pennsylvania, adds another dimension to our understanding by recounting the bureau's long history involving religious activists and institutions. The FBI and Religion contains 15 essays written by theologians, historians, and political scientists; the ground it covers stretches from the bureau's birth during the Progressive Era through the current war on terror. It is based on extensive reading of the secondary literature on the FBI, supplemented at times by research of relevant and accessible FBI records. Most of the chapters focus on the government's surveillance of religious leaders and institutions, with bureau officials often equating moral advocacy of peace or racial justice with threats to the nation's security. Targets include the Church of God in Christ during World War I, the Moorish Science Temple of America from the 1920s through the 1960s, the Nation of Islam and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the 1950s and '60s, the Branch Davidians during the Waco siege of 1993, and militant Muslims following 9/11. Other essays assess how, during Hoover's tenure, FBI officials employed religious rhetoric to influence public attitudes about suspected subversives. (Hoover himself regularly used religious rhetoric in his public speeches and writi[...]



Religious Objections to LGBT Issues in Mississippi Back in Play—for Now

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 15:30:00 -0400

A controversial, religion-based LGBT law in Mississippi can't be blocked based solely on fears that discrimination will follow, a federal panel of judges ruled this week. On the surface, Mississippi's HB 1523, passed last year, appears to be "religious freedom" legislation intended to protect Christian conservatives from state punishment for making decisions like declining to sell wedding cakes to gay couples. What the law actually does is more complex, anti-libertarian and clearly unconstitutional. The law grants special protections by the state for three particular religious beliefs. They are: Marriage is or should be recognized as only being between a man and a woman. Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage. Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth. The law grants people who have only those beliefs various protections under the law. Religious organizations cannot be accused of discrimination on the basis of making decisions in accordance with the protected beliefs. The state cannot discriminate against families who want to adopt or foster children because they share those protected beliefs. The state cannot punish doctors or therapists who refuse to provide services that would violate those beliefs (meaning a doctor couldn't refuse to treat people simply because they're gay or transgender but could refuse to provide therapy or treatment to help facilitate a sex change). The state couldn't punish businesses for refusing to serve people in accordance with those beliefs or interfere with schools and businesses setting their own policies of how (or if) to accommodate transgender people. The state wouldn't even be able to punish government employees who refuse to hand out same-sex marriage licenses, but only if it's because of their religious beliefs. To be very clear, this is not some form of Religious Freedom Restoration Act allowing people general but limited exceptions to following laws because of religious beliefs. This is a law that determines only these three beliefs get special protection. The law is in clear violation of the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from showing a preference for any particular religious belief. It is blatantly unconstitutional. Objecting to the law, a group of plaintiffs filed suit, and a lower court put an injunction in place to keep it from implementation. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel did not make a decision about the constitutionality of the law in any way. Instead, the three judges ruled unanimously that the plaintiffs lacked standing at this point to oppose the law. There is no case yet seeking relief from the courts. The ruling notes that in order for the judges to grant standing, it's not enough to argue that the law violates the Establishment Clause—"[the plaintiffs] must allege a personal violation of rights." The panel's decision should not be taken as a determination that the law is constitutional or valid. Assuming the law actually gets implemented, it probably won't be long before somebody will be able to prove the law has affected them.[...]



Brickbat: Where's The Beef?

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) India has banned the sale of cows for slaughter. While Hindus do not eat beef, it forms an important part of the diet of the nation's Muslims and Christians.