Jul 22: Russian spy attended National Prayer Breakfast, Trump tweets correlated with hate crimes, and more

Executive Branch

Courts unsealed a Justice Department filing accusing a Russian national of being a foreign agent and using, among other things, relationships with Christian Republicans and the National Prayer Breakfast to influence American leaders.

New research found correlations between tweets by Donald Trump about Islam and subsequent spikes in anti-Muslim hate crimes.

Legislative Branch

The House passed a provision preventing the IRS from penalizing churches that endorse political candidates. The provision is in a budget bill funding the IRS for the year.

The AP documented that there are more Muslim candidates for office than ever before, and they face some backlash.

Judicial Branch

A federal judge ruled against Catholic Social Services in finding that Philadelphia was not discriminating on the basis of religion when requiring foster care agencies to follow its nondiscrimination policies regarding prospective parents. CSS does not place children with same-sex couples.


A judge ruled Baptist college in Louisiana was racially discriminating when it denied a position to a man because of his Jewish ancestry.

Jul 15: Brett Kavanaugh nominated to the Supreme Court

Judicial Branch

Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. A number of articles analyzed his past decisions on religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

A professor at BYU argued that the current Supreme Court nomination process should be overhauled to make it less political.


A Hawaii appeals court ruled against bed and breakfast owners who denied a room to a lesbian couple because of religious beliefs.

Deseret News provided in-depth coverage of the court case in Michigan between the ACLU and a faith-based adoption and foster care agency.

Other reads

A professor published about her research indicating that people’s religiosity is partly determined by their political preferences, even though we tend to think causality works in the other direction.

Jul 8: Supreme Court shortlist

Judicial Branch

Religion News Service profiled the three frontrunners for nomination to the Supreme Court: Amy Conet Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Raymond Kethledge. All are devout Christians and have conservative records on the bench. Religious freedom is expected to figure prominently in the selection and confirmation processes.

Executive branch

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against oil company Halliburton for harassment of two Muslim employees.


A judge in Indiana dismissed a three-year lawsuit brought by The First Church of Cannabis that contended its religious liberty had been curtailed by not being permitted to use marijuana in its services.

The governor of Maine cited religious liberty when he vetoed legislation banning conversion therapy.

Deseret News analysis of state bills affecting religious freedom showed that fewer than 14% had bipartisan sponsorship.

Jul 1: Supreme Court rules on travel ban, Justice Kennedy to retire, and more

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration ban on travelers from 7 countries, 5 with majority-Muslim populations. The majority opinion focused on the President’s power to make administrative decisions for national security, while the dissent argued that it was inconsistent with the court’s recent ruling in the Cakeshop Masterpiece case, because it treated statements with religious bias differently.

The Atlantic assessed how both sides of the travel ban case used families in their arguments. The Washington Post asked why religious liberty groups didn’t criticize the decision.

A New York Times analysis makes the case that recent Supreme Court decisions reflect a successful shift in conservative argumentation. It says that conservatives stopped appealing to common morality and maintaining order and are now taking the same approach liberals have in appealing to rights. The author opines that these new tactics may backfire.

Supreme Court swing voter Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. Trump is expected to nominate a conservative appointee who will appeal to a religious, conservative voting base – particularly evangelicals. Two religious power brokers in DC are likely to significantly affect who is nominated.

Executive Branch

Over 600 members of the United Methodist Church lodged a formal complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is a member, arguing that the policies of separating immigrant children from their parents violates basic tenets of the church’s rules. The complaint could theoretically lead to his excommunication, but experts say that’s unlikely.


The New York City Commission on Human Rights released data on religious discrimination. They reported, among other statistics, that 25% of New Yorkers who wear religious garb have experienced multiple occasions of verbal harassment or taunting.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued a New Mexico diner that refused to allow a Muslim employee to wear a headscarf. The employee was later fired, and is suing for back wages.