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.