Jun 17: New Justice Department initiative, Sessions quotes Bible on immigration, and more

Executive Branch

The Justice Department announced a new initiative to protect religious institutions from discrimination in city zoning. It will work to enforce the 2000 RLUIPA law on religious land use.

The first complaint under the initiative was brought this week, against a New Jersey town that allegedly designed zoning rules to hamper Orthodox Jews’ religious observance.

Religious commenters and the media had much to say about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ use of Romans 13 to justify Trump administration immigration policies that separate parents and children at the border.

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court declined to take a case adjudicating a property dispute between the Episcopal Church and a conservative breakaway group over properties worth $500 million. It left the last ruling in place, which found in favor of the parent church.

A Florida city and county were sued in federal court over their bans of gay conversion therapy. The plaintiffs argue that the statutes violate ministers’ religious freedom to counsel church members.

A federal judge ruled against Northwest tribal members who sued the government for destroying sacred grounds during a highway expansion.

States

The Deseret News compiled a list of 139 bills in state legislatures that affect religious freedom. It misses much of the legislation on my own list, but has solid coverage of particular topics.

An Arizona court cited the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling in its decision upholding a city ordinance that bars a Christian calligraphy business from refusing service to gay customers. Reporting on the story was all partial, either for the ruling or against it.

A court in Florida ruled that a priest does not have to give testimony on statements made to him during confession, even if the confessee wants him to. The ruling was based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and contradicted Florida Evidence Code.

Community

14 Muslim women filed suit against the Newark airport after being detained and searched. Most of the women were unrelated, but were wearing headscarves.

Other reads

Pew survey data showed that the gap between the religiosity of generations is growing – in almost every country, younger people are less religious than older people.

The Washington Post described how the phrase “Under God” was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

Jun 10: Baker wins at Supreme Court, Trump holds iftar, and more

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court made a narrow ruling in favor of a Colorado baker who declined to bake a custom wedding cake for a gay couple due to his Christian beliefs. The court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that penalized the baker originally were prejudiced against him, but the opinions did not take a stance on issues of free speech or freedom of religion.

A federal court ruled that the “In God We Trust” motto on US currency does not violate the establishment clause by forcing users to espouse religious ideals they don’t believe in.

Executive Branch

Donald Trump hosted an iftar dinner in honor of Ramadan, a customary presidential event that was skipped last year.

States

North Carolina passed legislation requiring public schools to display the national motto, “In God We Trust.”

An Arizona appeals court upheld an anti-discrimination law in Phoenix that makes it illegal for same-sex couples to be refused service on the basis of religion.

Religious leaders took opposing stands on marijuana legalization in Oklahoma.

The first Muslim congressional representative filed to run for Attorney General in Minnesota so that he can challenge Trump administration policies.

Community

A high school teacher in Indiana was fired after refusing to use transgender students’ preferred gender pronouns, which he said violated his religious beliefs.

A Virginia health worker filed suit after being fired for not removing her hijab, which her manager said was a safety risk for being grabbed.

Other reads

The New York Times ran an opinion piece on the future of sex and gender on Christian college campuses.

The New York Times examined the experience of Muslim-American gun owners in depth.

Jun 3: Irreligious Americans are more religious than religious Europeans, and more

Executive Branch

The new executive secretary and chief of staff at the National Security Council worked on think tank reports warning of a global jihad movement run by “shariah-adherent” Muslims, and arguing that their citizenship should be revoked.

Judicial Branch

A federal court upheld the constitutionality of a law that prohibits obstruction of access to houses of worship.

States

The New York Times covered Franklin Graham’s campaign to turn California to a red state by mobilizing evangelical voters.

A Kentucky judge invalidated a settlement between the state and plaintiffs that would have required the government to monitor faith-based foster homes. Without the settlement, the lawsuit over the constitutionality of Kentucky contracting with religious childcare organizations will continue.

Community

The Atlantic published a profile of Gregory Stevens, a young pastor who drew controversy for his sharp criticisms of Silicon Valley inequality and Palo Alto city policies.

Other reads

New research indicated that religiously unaffiliated Americans may be more religious than many Christian Europeans. It included additional data on religiosity in the US and Europe.

An LA Times op-ed argued that although the number of evangelicals may be eclipsed by religiously unaffiliated people, their cohesion and institutional structures give them outsized political influence.