Oct 29: Missouri man wins sex discrimination suit, Catholic Charities sued, and more

Executive Branch

With the expiration of 120 days, the Trump administration announced that they will allow entry of refugees from all countries – including the Muslim-majority countries that had been banned – with additional screening.

The Department of Health and Human Services released a memo seeking comment on barriers to faith-based organizations’ participation in programs or reception of grants.

The Trump administration nominated a Brandeis professor who works to combat on-campus anti-Semitism as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education.

Judicial Branch

The Atlantic reported on the Hawaii judge who ruled against Trump’s travel bans, and his legal rationales – including violation of the establishment clause on religion.

50 States

A gay man in Missouri won a discrimination suit on the basis of sex. Although Missouri law does not prohibit discrimination due to sexual orientation, the judge ruled that the plaintiff’s mistreatment for acting “insufficiently masculine” is covered under the sex discrimination portion of the statute.

An Arizona couple lost a bid to remove a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The conservative Christian plaintiffs run a calligraphy business and are concerned about the possibility of being asked to write invitations for a same-sex wedding.

A North Dakota couple filed suit against Catholic Charities for refusing their application for adoption. The couple is lives together but is unmarried.

A Kentucky judge has resigned after announcing he would recuse himself from adoption cases involving gay people because of his religious beliefs. He had issued a general order to attorneys telling them to request a special judge if they were bringing such a case.

An Indiana judge ruled that preventing convicted sex offenders from attending church violates their religious freedom.

Community

The 31st undocumented immigrant to claim sanctuary at a house of worship did so at a Denver church on Thursday.

The Des Moines Register profiled an evangelical millennial working to persuade others that climate change is a real and important issue.

Other reads

A former CEO of NPR wrote a book on his experience immersing himself in Republican evangelical culture. He says he learned about religion, community service, gun control and other issues that often get short shrift in the media.

Former FBI Director James Comey revealed himself as the owner of a Twitter account named after theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. The Washington Post explained Niebuhr’s continued impact on American political life.

Oct 22: Sports and religion, travel ban blocked for Muslim discrimination, and more

Executive Branch

The Justice Department settled legal cases with a group of colleges who sought religious exemptions to the ACA’s contraception mandate.

A man was convicted of a federal hate crime for leaving a voicemail at a mosque threatening to shoot its members.

Politico published a piece contending that Trump represents an alliance between evangelical and nationalist conservatives.

Judicial Branch

A judge in Maryland blocked the new travel ban. He was preceded by a judge in Hawaii, but the new ruling is distinct for insisting that the policy changes in the ban have not eliminated religious discrimination against Muslims.

The Supreme Court confirmed a lower court’s ruling that a New Mexico town must remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from outside its city hall.

50 States

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation to prevent employers from punishing employees based on their reproductive health decisions. There was no religious exemption in the bill. Brown argued that these issues are already covered by state policies.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation began an effort to stop Oklahoma courts from ordering defendants to serve time at religious work camps. The camps are purportedly drug rehabilitation centers that involve unpaid labor at chicken processing plants and mandatory church attendance.

Sports

Religion and Politics explored the relationship between NFL religious ministries and the ongoing protests of racial inequality where players kneel during the national anthem.

A roundtable of basketball players discussed what it’s like to be Muslim in the NBA.

Community

A Museum of the Bible is set to open in November in Washington, DC. It is officially nonpartisan, but has drawn criticism from conservatives for omitting Jesus and from liberals for promoting a literalist evangelical interpretation of the Bible.

Other reads

The Atlantic discussed the use of the term “evil” as a framework to understand how conservative and liberal commentators understand morality differently.

Pew Research found that a majority of American adults now say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral.

Oct 15: Trump speaks to Values Voters, Christian Hogwarts profiled

Executive Branch

Donald Trump spoke at the conservative Values Voter Summit. He listed the actions he’s taken that align with conservative Christian causes in both domestic and foreign policy, and committed to protect religious freedom.

Judicial Branch

A federal judge ruled that a tax exemption for housing clergy violates the establishment clause. She found that the exemption, passed in 1952, was unconstitutional because it provided a public benefit only available to members of the clergy.

A district court ruled that the US House Chaplain may bar an atheist from giving the congressional invocation. The atheist, who was invited by Mark Pocan (D-Wis), was informed that he did not meet the requirements that he be ordained by a recognized body in a faith he practices, and that the prayer address a higher power.

Other reads

Buzzfeed published an utterly fascinating article about a Bethel Church institution called “the School of Supernatural Ministry”that teaches Christian millennials how to prophesy and perform faith healing.

FiveThirtyEight compiled a summary of research indicating that college attendance does not reduce students’ religiosity.

Oct 8: Sessions issues memo on religious freedom, “thoughts and prayers” for Las Vegas

Executive Branch

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a 25-page memo instructing the government to give the greatest possible deference to religious liberty claims. The most controversial implication of the memo is that religious freedom will receive preference when it conflicts with LGBT non-discrimination or contraception access. It clarifies that religious exemptions can apply to for-profit companies as well as explicitly religious institutions such as churches.

As a result of the memo, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a new policy that allows any employer to exclude contraception from its health insurance coverage if it expresses a religious or moral objection. This widens the religious exception to the Affordable Care Act mandate that companies provide birth control to female employees.

Judicial Branch

The Red Mass sermon ushering in the new Supreme Court term focused on immigration and religious freedom. Five justices attended the service, given by LA Archbishop Jose Gomez.

Legislative Branch

The Judiciary Committee narrowly recommended the nomination of a judicial appointee who was questioned at length about her religion and if it would impair her impartiality.

50 States

The Mississippi law that allows denial of commercial services to LGBT people for religious reasons went into effect.

Community

After the Las Vegas shootings, there was a backlash against the tweets and political statements about sending “thoughts and prayers” to the victims. The primary complaint was that thinking and praying may make people feel better, but action is required to solve the problem.

A series of articles responded to the critique by explaining how prayer and action are linked, what neuroscience says about prayer, and who tends to use the phrase most often.

A conference of scientists and theologians discussed the moral implications of rapidly advancing gene editing technology.

Other reads

Pew analyzed national religions across the globe – from official state religions to governments that are formally hostile to religions. It found that 20% of countries have no official religion, but have policies that unofficially favor one or more religions over others.

Oct 1: Roy Moore nominated for Senate, Trump issues third travel ban

Legislative Branch

Roy Moore won the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama, defeating a candidate backed by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. Moore is famous for having twice been removed as a justice of the Alabama Supreme Court over his defiance of federal decisions – one to remove a large granite monument of the Ten Commandments, and the other to recognize gay marriage.

In this campaign, Moore doubled down on his conservative Christian credentials. He said that homosexuality should be illegal, suggested that school shootings and terrorist attacks were the result of secularization and called for the recognition and reintroduction of the religious underpinnings of American law.

Moore also said that Muslims should not serve in public office, going further than Trump, Carson or other Republican politicians in his criticism of Islam. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the administration does not agree with Moore’s comments on Muslims or gay people.

Executive Branch

The Trump Administration issued a new travel ban, nullifying the previous ban that was pending before the Supreme Court. The updated executive order includes countries without a Muslim majority – Venezuela and North Korea – which may allow it to withstand legal challenges based on religious discrimination.

Judicial Branch

Donald Trump nominated Kyle Duncan, a conservative lawyer and law professor specializing in church-state relations, to the 5th Circuit. Duncan has an extensive public record of statements about religious freedom, and served as lead counsel on the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case.

Another judicial nominee, Jeff Mateer, faced opposition after CNN published video of him defending gay conversion therapy and saying that gay marriage will lead to other, “disgusting” forms of marriage like polygamy.

Community

A prison chaplain refusing to carry pepper spray for religious reasons has not been allowed to visit inmates. The Marshall Project published a thorough profile.

A district court ruled that a Pennsylvania County’s use of a cross in its official seal violates the separation of church and state, according to precedent.

Other reads

Get Religion published an interesting compendium of Hugh Hefner obituaries focused on his religious background. It makes that case that his Playboy persona may have been his reaction to a “Puritan” Methodist upbringing after he discovered that while he had saved himself for marriage his fiancée was unfaithful.