In this podcast, Center Director Mark Movsesian and Associate Director Marc DeGirolami discuss the anti-vaccination controversy. What are the sources of the objections to compulsory vaccination laws–religious, secular, or both? What power does the state have to compel vaccination by law, and what exceptions have states made historically? What is the state of play of such exemptions? May the state take away religious exemptions from mandatory vaccination without violating the Constitution or other laws? Need it take away all exemptions to pass legal muster, or can it do so selectively? Finally, what does the “anti-vaxx” issue say about American society’s capacity to agree about what are truly compelling social interests? Listen in!
Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:
- New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed legislation extending the statute of limitations in civil actions for sexual abuse claims.
- Clergy sexual abuse victims sued the Vatican in federal court in Minnesota, claiming negligent supervision of the priest who abused them.
- The California synagogue shooting suspect has entered a not guilty plea in federal court.
- Alabama has passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the country, under which doctors could face up to 99 years in prison for performing an abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
- Based on a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, only 14% of Americans support a ban on abortion in all cases, as in the Alabama law, which provides only an exception for the life of the mother.
- The town of Coldspring, Texas has illuminated crosses at local courthouses in response to demands to remove them.
- The University of Colorado, Colorado Springs has settled its lawsuit with Alliance Defending Freedom, with the university agreeing to grant Ratio Christi registered status, pay damages, and update its policies.
- The Church of Latter-day Saints has issued a statement opposing the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination against all gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system.
- An Illinois appellate court rejected claims by former members of the Latin Kings that the state violated the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
- Cert was denied in the case of a Christian school suing under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, leaving in place the 6th Circuit’s decision that the school had failed to establish a prima facie case.
- Jewish businessman Alan Moher claims the divorce ruling he received in family court traps him in his marriage because it contradicts religious law.
- Seattle is looking to change its city code to prosecute more hate crimes, which have increased by nearly 400% since 2012.
- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his “faith is not about politics,” as religious freedom becomes more prevalent in the campaign.
- A pending bill in the California legislature would require priests to choose between violating the law or keeping the seal of the confessional.
- A professor at the American University in Cairo has lost his job after teaching about religions other than Islam.
- Three churches in Magnolia, Texas have filed suit against the city, claiming they were charged a higher water fee than commercial businesses.
- The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a press release about its concern that Indonesian religious extremists are exploiting blasphemy laws during campaign season.
- New York religious leaders have endorsed a bill to end solitary confinement in the state.
- The ban on wearing religious symbols was upheld by the Constitutional Chamber of the Geneva Court of Justice.
- 80 people were detained by the Islamic Sharia police in Nigeria for eating in public rather than fasting during Ramadan.
- A public school district in Washington was told to “cease and desist” its promotion of Islam through its Ramadan policy.
- A French Jewish MEP candidate’s campaign poster was daubed with a hook nose and the words “Attention Jew” and “out” in Paris.
- A Pakistani Christian teen claims she was raped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married to a 45-year-old Muslim man in Karachi.
- The BBC has been condemned for mistranslating the Arabic word for “Jew” to “Israeli” in a film about Gaza.
- A group of representatives of Quebec’s English school system claims they are shielded from the new secularism bill, arguing they have the constitutional authority to allow public school workers to wear religious symbols.
I confess I had never heard of this phenomenon, but it is certainly in keeping with other trends including the rise of the “Nones” (see Mark’s work on this front) and a kind of do-it-yourself-ism and spiritual-seeker bricolage when it comes to religion in America today. From Princeton University Press, this book is American JuBu: Jews, Buddhists, and Religious Change, by Emily Sigalow.
“Today, many Jewish Americans are embracing a dual religious identity, practicing Buddhism while also staying connected to their Jewish roots. This book tells the story of Judaism’s encounter with Buddhism in the United States, showing how it has given rise to new contemplative forms within American Judaism—and shaped the way Americans understand and practice Buddhism.
Taking readers from the nineteenth century to today, Emily Sigalow traces the history of these two traditions in America and explains how they came together. She argues that the distinctive social position of American Jews led them to their unique engagement with Buddhism, and describes how people incorporate aspects of both into their everyday lives. Drawing on a wealth of original in-depth interviews conducted across the nation, Sigalow explores how Jewish American Buddhists experience their dual religious identities. She reveals how Jewish Buddhists confound prevailing expectations of minority religions in America. Rather than simply adapting to the majority religion, Jews and Buddhists have borrowed and integrated elements from each other, and in doing so they have left an enduring mark on the American consciousness.
American JuBu highlights the leading role that American Jews have played in the popularization of meditation and mindfulness in the United States, and the profound impact that these two venerable traditions have had on one another.”