In this episode, we discuss Augustine’s City of God and its meaning for American politics today. What does Augustine’s famous metaphor of the two cities–the City of God and the City of Man–suggest about Christians’ place in 21st Century America? And what about his definition of a people as a group united by common loves? Is it correct, as President Biden argued in his inaugural address, that Americans fit this definition of a people? What common loves unite Americans today? Listen in!
Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:
- The U.S. Supreme Court, in Tandon v. Newsom, enjoined for now California’s COVID-19 order limiting religious gatherings in homes.
- Suit was filed in a South Carolina federal district court by a Catholic diocese that operates 33 schools and private colleges challenging South Carolina’s Blaine Amendment as a violation of the Equal Protection and Free Exercise Clauses.
- Suit was filed in an Oregon federal district court by the Oregon-based Religious Exemption Accountability Project against a group of Christian universities challenging the use of the Title IX religious exemption.
- The Idaho Supreme Court held in State of Idaho v. Heath that the state’s ban on marijuana does not violate the defendant’s right to religious liberty.
- Minnesota’s Governor announced that a mandatory curfew in place during ongoing protests contains an exemption for those traveling to and from religious services.
- Stirling Free Church filed a lawsuit against Robertson Trust, Scotland’s largest charitable trust, alleging religious discrimination because the trust terminated their rental agreement after learning the church’s views on same-sex marriage.
- The U.S. Supreme Court today denied review in two Title VII religious discrimination cases in which petitioners sought to overturn the court’s decision in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison which allows an employer to refuse to accommodate an employee’s religious requirements if doing so would impose anything more than a de minimis cost.
- The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a Seventh Day Adventist’s claim that Walmart wrongfully refused to accommodate his inability to work on Saturdays.
- Suit was filed in a New York federal district court by a couple who claim that the city’s public housing rules, which effectively limit the size of families that are eligible for apartments through the affordable housing lottery, operate to discriminate against Orthodox Jewish families.
- Suit was filed in a New York federal district court challenging the application of New York’s public accommodation law to a Christian wedding photographer on First Amendment grounds.
- A Michigan federal district court held that Wayne State University violated the free exercise, free speech, association and assembly rights of a Christian student organization (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) when the University suspended the group’s status as a Recognized Student Organization because the group mandated that its leaders agree with InterVarsity’s “Doctrine and Purpose Statements,” “exemplify Christ-like character, conduct and leadership,” and describe their Christian beliefs.
- A British trial court held that the Equality Act 2010 and the European Convention on Human Rights were violated when banner ads for the Lancaster Festival of Hope were removed from public buses.
For all who celebrate today, a very Happy Easter. Qom mašiḥo! Šariro’ith qom!
Mark and I were very pleased last night to host the second session of our Reading Society, an occasion for students and alumni to gather in the evening to discuss a classic work. Our choice for this session was a selection of books from Augustine’s City of God, together with associated materials drawn from the Letter to the Hebrews and elsewhere. As with our first session on Antigone, this one was a huge success. Our discussion centered around two main issues: Augustine’s two-cities theme; and the idea of a people having common “loves.” Our students were thoughtful and brought fresh insights to the material. They clearly had prepared for the discussion!
We will try to organize at least one new session next fall and are already thinking of possibilities.
In this episode, we interview Italian political scientist Lorenzo Castellani about his new book, “The Gear of Power” (L’Ingranaggio del Potere), which explores the rise of the “technocacy”–a new aristocracy, based on technical expertise, that increasingly dominates politics in the West. We discuss how claims of neutral expertise can mask underlying (and contested) moral commitments, and how the rise of the technocracy has provoked a populist backlash in Europe and America, including with respect to public-health restrictions on worship during the Covid pandemic. Listen in!
Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:
- A petition for certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in Calvary Chapel of Bangor v. Mills, a case challenging Maine’s COVID-19 restrictions on worship.
- In Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. v. Box, the Seventh Circuit ruled against enforcement of a statute requiring that a minor’s parents be notified when their child seeks a judicial bypass to obtain an abortion.
- The Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in The Satanic Temple v. City of Scottsdale, an Establishment Clause challenge to a city’s denial of a group’s request to deliver an invocation at a City Council meeting.
- In Coble v. Lake Norman Charter School, a North Carolina federal district court dismissed parents’ First Amendment challenge to the appearance of The Poet X, a book by Elizabeth Acevedo, in their children’s high school literature curriculum. The parents argued that the book expresses hostility towards religion.
- In Kelly v. Montana Department of Transportation, a Montana federal district court dismissed a free exercise challenge to the removal of a “spiritual cross” pltf had erected on the side of a highway in memory of his stepson. The court found that the cross, on public land, constituted government speech.
- In Trustees of the General Assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc v. Patterson, a Pennsylvania federal district court granted a preliminary injunction preventing a county sheriff from carrying out an eviction notice against the church.
Here are some important law-and-religion stories from around the web.
- The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction to a street preacher who was limited to preaching across from a festival entrance.
- The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Washington state school board’s dismissal of a high school football coach who prayed at the 50-yard line immediately after football games.
- The U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals held that absolute legislative immunity extends to acts that are “quintessentially legislative” after a consulting agency for Islamic educational groups sued Pennsylvania state legislators for actions that prevented the agency from purchasing state land for a youth intervention center and Islamic boarding school.
- A New York federal district court entered a consent decree requiring modification of the village of Airmont’s zoning code because provisions discriminate against Orthodox Jewish residents in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
- A New York state appellate court rejected constitutional challenges to New York’s repeal of the religious exemption from mandatory vaccination for school children.
Here are some important law-and-religion stories from around the web:
- The Second Circuit held that Section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act immunizes the video sharing platform Vimeo from a lawsuit alleging religious and sexual orientation discrimination under California law.
- A California federal district court declined to issue a preliminary injunction against California’s COVID-19 restriction on indoor singing and chanting during worship services.
- A Colorado state trial court dismissed Colorado Consumer Protection Act claims against a bakery that has been the subject of extensive litigation over its refusal to design wedding cakes for same-sex weddings.
- A Texas state appellate court held that the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) should be read to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law SB6, the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans all abortions, except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency.
- The England and Wales High Court held that the religious freedom rights of protesters at Stonehenge were not infringed when they were convicted of violating restrictions.
- The Indian High Court of the State of Tripura dismissed a complaint filed against a petitioner for violating, through a Facebook post, Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibits deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings by insulting religion or religious beliefs.
I was delighted to present a new paper at the University of Arizona Rehnquist Center’s National Conference of Constitutional Law Scholars today. I was on the religion and speech panel, with interesting presentations from Professors Luke Boso; Stephanie Barclay and Justin Collings; and Shaakirrah Sanders.
My paper (not yet in public circulation) is called “Establishment’s Political Priority to Free Exercise,” and it examines which set of principles and commitments underlying each Clause has political priority conceptually, temporally, and as a matter of general significance.
Professor Melissa Murray commented acutely and very helpfully on the draft and the presentation. More soon on this paper.