The Supreme Court has issued the following order in the case of Little Sisters of the Poor et al. v. Sebelius:
The application for an injunction having been submitted to Justice Sotomayor and by her referred to the Court, the Court orders: If the employer applicants inform the Secretary of Health and Human Services in writing that they are non-profit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services, the respondents are enjoined from enforcing against the applicants the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of the appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. To meet the condition for injunction pending appeal, applicants need not use the form prescribed by the Government and need not send copies to third-party administrators. The Court issues this order based on all of the circumstances of the case, and this order should not be construed as an expression of the Court’s views on the merits.
It’s always hard to interpret all that much from an order as short as this, but a few things are clear.
First, the injunction stays in place. The Little Sisters can just send the government a copy of their complaint. Second, and notwithstanding the final sentence of the order, at least some of the Court seems to have understood the Little Sisters’ argument–that is, that signing the certification and designation of a third party administrator to provide contraceptive products is a violation of their religious liberty under RFRA. If the Court had not understood it, or had disagreed with it, the injunction would not have remained in place. Third, and in consequence, this order represents another victory, albeit a cryptic one and one of uncertain duration, for the plaintiffs in these nonprofit cases.
Here’s a great piece by The Week’s Michael Brendan Dougherty on the persecution of Mideast Christians. Doughtery offers an explanation for why the human rights community in the West is largely ignoring the problem:
Western activists and media have focused considerable outrage at Russia’s laws against “homosexual propaganda” in the lead-up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. It would only seem fitting that Westerners would also protest (or at the very least notice) laws that punish people with death for converting to Christianity.
And yet the Western world is largely ignorant of or untroubled by programmatic violence against Christians. Ed West, citing the French philosopher Regis Debray, distils the problem thusly: “The victims are ‘too Christian’ to excite the Left, and ‘too foreign’ to excite the Right.”
That really says it quite well.
Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:
- The U.S. Department of Defense has released new regulations allowing service members to display religious beliefs by wearing, for example, a turban, scarf, or beard, as long as there is no interference with military readiness, discipline, or order.
- Some Sikh American organizations are criticizing the new regulations for not going far enough, since requests for religious accommodation will still be decided on a case-by-case basis.
- President Obama will meet with Pope Francis for the first time on March 27 at the Vatican to discuss their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality.
- Funding for the relocation of the U.S. embassy to the Holy See from its current location near the Circus Maximus to the grounds of the US embassy to Italy, is included in the spending bill passed by the Senate last Thursday.
- From self-imposed exile in the Poconos, Islamist Fethullah Gulen is leading a movement aimed at unraveling the coalition that has governed Turkey since 2002. Gulen recently accused Prime Minister Erdogan, also an Islamist, of abandoning the path of reform.
- As one of 45 religious groups fighting the ACA’s contraception mandate, the Little Sisters of the Poor have stepped into the spotlight.
- The ACLU is suing a school board in Louisiana, alleging officials at one of its schools harassed a sixth-grader because of his Buddhist faith.
- Plans are underway for an interfaith prayer building near Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. The building will combine a church, a synagogue, and a mosque under one roof.
- The UN AIDS taskforce and human rights groups will launch a battle in local courts against Malawi’s laws criminalizing homosexuality
- A former Vatican prelate was charged with laundering millions through the Vatican bank.
- The Mormon Church has issued a sweeping defense of Utah’s liquor laws, saying the rules are closely tied to the the state’s moral culture.
Next month, Oxford University Press will publish Belief without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but Not Religious by Linda A. Mercadante (Methodist Theological School, Ohio). The publisher’s description follows.
The last twenty years have seen a dramatic increase in “nones”: people who do not claim any religious affiliation. These “nones” now outnumber even the largest Protestant denominations in America. They are not to be confused with secularists, however, for many of them identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR). The response to this dramatic change in American religion has been amazingly mixed. While social scientists have been busy counting and categorizing them, the public has swung between derision and adulation. Some complain “nones” are simply shallow dilettantes, narcissistically concerned with their own inner world. Others hail them as spiritual giants, and ground-breaking pioneers. Rarely, however, have these “nones” been asked to explain their own views, beliefs, and experiences. In Belief without Borders, theologian and one-time SBNR Linda Mercadante finally gives these individuals a chance to speak for themselves.
This volume is the result of extensive observation and nearly 100 in-depth interviews with SBNRs across the United States. Mercadante presents SBNRs’ stories, shows how they analyze their spiritual journeys, and explains why they reject the claims of organized religion. Surprisingly, however, Mercadante finds these SBNRs within as well as outside the church. She reveals the unexpected, emerging latent theology within this group, including the interviewees’ creative concepts of divine transcendence, life after death, human nature, and community. The conclusions she draws are startling: despite the fact that SBNRs routinely discount the creeds and doctrines of organized religion, many have devised a structured set of beliefs, often purposefully in opposition to doctrines associated with Christianity.
Next month, Amsterdam University Press will publish Secularism, Assimilation, and the Crisis of Multiculturalism: French Modernist Legacies by Yolande Jansen (Amsterdam Centre for Globalization Studies). The publisher’s description follows.
This remarkable study develops a theoretical critique of contemporary discourses on secularism and assimilation, arguing that the perspective of assimilating distinct religious minorities by incorporating them into a secular and supposedly neutral public sphere may be self-subverting. To flesh out this insight, Jansen draws on the paradoxes of assimilation as experienced by the French Jews in the late 19th century through a contextualised reading of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. She proposes a dynamic, critical multiculturalism as an alternative to discourses focusing on secularism, assimilation and integration.