Feb 18: #MeToo, Mormonism and the White House, travel ban loses in federal court, and more

Executive Branch

The reports of White House aide Rob Porter’s domestic abuse have prompted soul searching in the Mormon community. Both of Porter’s ex-wives sought counsel from their lay ministers in the faith and received little support, being told to consider their husband’s career before making any accusations. Other women have come forward with similar stories.

Judicial Branch

The 4th Circuit ruled that the travel ban is unconstitutional because Trump’s past statements indicate it is targeting Muslims.

50 States

An Ohio court transferred custody of a teenager from the parents to the grandparents after the parents refused to allow their child, who is transgender, to seek hormone therapy because of their religious beliefs.

Community

The convictions of three people in Florida for a 2015 murder were overturned because a judge had unfairly prevented a Jehovah’s Witness from serving on the jury. The cases will have to be reheard.

Other reads

Religion and Politics explored why female evangelical pastors are wary of commenting on politics.

Feb 11: National Prayer Breakfast, California rules on cake case, and more

Executive Branch

Donald Trump spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, emphasizing stories of Americans who sacrificed for other people. He referenced religious freedom and the role of the United States in the world.

Legislative Branch

The budget bill passed on Friday included language formalizing an executive order to FEMA that prevents the exclusion of religious nonprofits from receiving aid just because they are religious.

The unopposed Republican candidate in an Illinois congressional district denies the Holocaust and has been called a Nazi by other Republicans.

50 States

A judge in California ruled that a baker did not violate non-discrimination laws by refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. He held that the cake is artistry and covered under free speech, in advance of a Supreme Court decision that has yet to be made.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order prohibiting the state government from doing business with any entities that discriminate. He said the order was in response to the Trump administration’s interpretation of religious liberty to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Community

The real estate association of a storied town in Michigan is facing a lawsuit for bylaws preventing non-Christians from purchasing homes.

Other reads

The Guardian covered a long legal battle in New Jersey over the construction of a mosque.

The Atlantic covered Heterodox Academy, a nonprofit advocating for diversity of thought at universities.

Feb 4: Justice department issues religious liberty memo, trains church security, and more

Executive Branch

The Justice Department released a memo instructing local offices to inform the Attorney General of any new cases relating to religious liberty, and to coordinate decisions as cases proceed.

In the wake of church shootings over the last year, US Attorneys’ offices have begun holding workshops on how to maintain security at places of worship.

The Trump Administration announced it will resume immigration from 11 countries that were temporarily banned from sending migrants, with additional security screenings. Critics argued the rules continue to target Muslims.

The New York Times and the National Review ran opposing editorials on the new HHS rules around religious objections by health professionals.

Judicial Branch

A federal appeals court ruled that a sexual orientation discrimination claim can be added on to a sexual discrimination claim to form a “sex-plus” claim. The instant case was a lesbian firefighter who was persistently harassed at work.

The Native American Church of North America settled a lawsuit against the TSA in federal court. TSA agents were accused of mishandling religious objects that should not have been touched by nonchurch members, according to the church’s beliefs. The settlement involves additional training for TSA agents.

Other reads

The Atlantic covered the establishment of the first chaired professorship in the US to study atheism, and examined the history of atheism as an identity and an academic subject.

The New Yorker ran an essay about the laws defining life and death for medically brain dead people, and how religion is or is not accommodated by different states’ laws.

A conversation intensified around Harvard research published in November indicating that intense religion in the US is not in decline, contrary to the “secularization thesis.” Declines in average religiosity appear to be explained by the weakening of moderate religion, not intense religion.