Wednesday, January 28, 2015
After years of behind-the-scenes meetings between LGBT advocates and top Mormon leaders, church officials Tuesday announced for the first time general support for legislation to protect LGBT people in areas such as housing and employment – as long as accommodations are made to protect the freedom of religious people who oppose such measures.
“We must all learn to live with others who do not share the same beliefs or values,” read a statement released at a midday Salt Lake City news conference.
Church officials emphasized that there has been no change of the doctrine. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches that it goes against the law of God to have sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman.
LGBT advocates had mixed reactions to the announcement, which mirrors a national discussion about how to balance civil rights of gays and lesbians with the religious freedom of conservatives of different faiths who oppose gay equality, among other liberalizing moves.
Sunday, January 25, 2015
From bikini-clad beachgoer to veiled jihadist fugitive, the partner of Paris gunman Amedy Coulibaly underwent a startling metamorphosis that illuminates the dangerous potential behind militant groups' efforts to increase their recruiting of female terrorists.
Although French police initially questioned Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, five years ago, they acknowledge that she was subsequently able to make hundreds of phone calls and arrange meetings for Coulibaly through the wives of fellow assailants. She is then believed to have fled to Turkey just before the rash of killings in Paris this month, and is believed to have crossed into Syria.
The battle lines are clear: Some high-level church officials, most notably the conference of German bishops, want the church to relax its rules so that divorced Catholics can more fully return to church life, particularly by receiving communion, even if they have remarried. Traditionalists arepushing back fiercely, arguing that the indissolubility of marriage is ordained by God and therefore nonnegotiable.
In October, bishops from around the world argued about divorce, among other topics, at a synod on family issues; this October, a larger group of bishops will meet for a second Vatican synod at which they will decide whether to recommend changes. The decision of whether to act, then, will be up to Francis.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Of the British men surveyed, 54% said they were atheists or agnostics compared with only 34% of women.
The study also showed that Muslims in the survey had the fewest doubts about the existence of God and the afterlife.
The research involving more than 9,000 British people born in 1970 was analysed at the University of Essex.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
People hvae a moral responsibility to practice "responsible parenting."
Pope Francis, after a visit to the largest Catholic nation in Asia, says Catholics may have a moral responsibility to limit the number of their children and need not reproduce "like rabbits.''
But the pope also reaffirmed the church's ban on artificial means of birth control and said Catholics should practice "responsible parenting."***
The pope cited the case of a woman he met who was pregnant with her eighth child after seven Cesarean sections. "That is an irresponsibility!" he said. The woman might argue that she should trust in God. "But God gives you methods to be responsible," he said.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Last week, Cardinal Raymond Burke delivered a whopper of a manifesto in an interview with something called “The Emangelization,” which seeks to restore a sense of manliness to men in the church. In the interview, Burke offered a lengthy meditation on what he perceives to be the problem with the modern church. Most of them began, he said, with the advent of the women’s rights movement during the 1960s, which pushed for female participation in the Catholic Church. He derided it as “radical feminism.”
When that happened, the “goodness and importance of men became very obscured,” which gave rise to a “very feminized” Church, he said: “There was a period of time when men who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity had entered the priesthood; sadly some of these disordered men sexually abused minors; a terrible tragedy for which the Church mourns.”
And some background on the Cardinal:
The former archbishop of St. Louis, who once said supporters of abortion rights shouldn’t receive communion, became the highest-ranking American in the Vatican during the tenure of former Pope Benedict on the strength of unabashed conservatism. But as soon as Pope Francis arrived on the scene, that same conservatism turned divisive when Burke criticized Francis’s progressive policies.
For example, Burke, who headed the Vatican’s highest court of canon law, lampooned Francis in a Buzzfeed interview late last year. He said Francis had “done a lot of harm. … The pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts.” Weeks later, the pope booted the rampaging cardinal, who had come to symbolize the so-called “Culture Wars” roiling the Vatican, demoting him to a ceremonial post with the charity group Knights of Malta.
Saturday, November 15, 2014
The decision is the first since the U.S. Supreme Court last June ruled that some for-profit companies may, like religious nonprofits, opt out of providing birth control coverage in their insurance plans. In the cases that have followed, various religious nonprofits have maintained, as they did in the Washington case, that the opt-out provision itself is a "substantial burden" on religion, and thus, that it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law enacted to enhance religious rights.
In rejecting that claim, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that "Religious objectors do not suffer substantial burdens ... where the only harm to them is that they sincerely feel aggrieved by their inability to prevent what other people would do ... "
These religious objectors have no right, the court said, "to be free from the unease, or even anguish" of knowing that others are legally entitled to receive or provide birth control. The court noted that birth control coverage was added to the Affordable Care Act because it accounts for a large part of women's preventive health care costs.
Writing for the 3-0 court panel, Judge Cornelia Pillard said the challengers' argument that the opt out harms them by triggering substitute coverage makes little sense in light of the government's need to carry out a duly enacted program.
Read the full decision here Priests for Life v. US Dep't of Human Services
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Workplace Law Prof Blog, Supreme Court Grants Cert in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch
The Supreme Court granted cert in a number of cases today as a result of its long conference, including EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch. The cert question is this:
Whether an employer can be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for refusing to hire an applicant or discharging an employee based on a “religious observance and practice” only if the employer has actual knowledge that a religious accommodation was required and the employer's actual knowledge resulted from direct, explicit notice from the applicant or employee.
The district court had denied A & F's motion for summary judgment and granted the EEOC's, holding that, as a matter of law, A & F had failed to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an applicant for employment. The Tenth Circuit reversed, remanding and ordering the district court to enter summary judgment for A & F. The applicant, a young Muslim woman, wore a hijab, a head covering, and although the store manager recommended she be hired, a district manager decided that because she wore the hijab, she should not. He determined that the hijab would not comply with the company's "Look Policy."
The Tenth Circuit held that summary judgment for A & F was proper because the applicant "never informed Abercrombie prior to its hiring decision that she wore her headscarf or 'hijab' for religious reasons and that she needed an accommodation for that practice, due to a conflict between the practice and Abercrombie’s clothing policy." Interestingly, the store manager assumed that the applicant wore her hijab for religious reasons and never raised the issue during the interview. She also did not suggest that there might be a conflict between that practice and the "Look Policy," which the applicant otherwise could easily comply with.
A "look policy"? For details of the policy and past sex discrimination claims, see Abercrombie & Fitch's Absurd Dress code is Going All the Way to the Supreme Court
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker, On Hobby Lobby, Justice Ginsburg was Right
In Hobby Lobby, a narrow five-to-four majority of the Court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 gave the proprietors of a chain of retail craft stores the right to exempt themselves from certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, the A.C.A. requires firms with more than fifty employees to provide insurance that includes birth-control coverage, or else pay a fine. There was an exemption already for religious institutions. Hobby Lobby, a closely held corporation, is a secular, for-profit business, but the Court held that because the owners of Hobby Lobby held a sincere religious belief that certain forms of birth control caused abortions, they could deny employer-paid insurance coverage for them. Justice Samuel Alito insisted, in his opinion for the Court, that his decision would be very limited in its effect. Responding to the dissenting opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who called it “a decision of startling breadth,” Alito wrote, “Our holding is very specific. We do not hold, as the principal dissent alleges, that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises can ‘opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.’ ” Ginsburg, though, wondered where the guidance was for the lower courts when faced with similar claims from employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others).
The exchange between the two Justices gets to the heart of the issue in Hobby Lobby. When do religious convictions allow individuals (or corporations) to excuse themselves from obligations that are binding on everyone else?
A sampling of court actions since Hobby Lobby suggests that Ginsburg has the better of the argument. She was right: the decision is opening the door for the religiously observant to claim privileges that are not available to anyone else.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Corey Ciocchetti, Denver (Business School), has uploaded to SSRN "Religious Freedom and Closely Held Corporations: The Hobby Lobby Case and Its Ethical Implications." The abstract reads:
Hobby Lobby and its quest for religious freedom captured the attention of a nation for a few moments in late June 2014. The country homed in on the Supreme Court as the justices weighed the rights of an incorporated, profit-making entity run by devout individuals that objected to particular entitlements granted to women under the Affordable Care Act. The case raised important legal issues such as whether the law allows for-profit corporations to exercise religion (yes!) and whether protection for religious freedom trumps the rights of third parties to cost free preventive care (sort of!). The Supreme Court’s decision also brought to light some major ethical dilemmas such as: (1) whether the government has the right to second-guess a person’s religious beliefs, (2) when do religious beliefs become too attenuated from the actions they oppose to truly pose a burden on religion and (3) whether religion can only be experienced by human beings. Though the lawyers will move on to the next legal challenge, Americans in general must continue to grapple with these ethical dilemmas as citizens of a society needing to find the appropriate balance between religious freedom and improving public heath.
This article attempts to answer some of these questions by evaluating the Hobby Lobby case from many different angles. Part II recounts the stories underlying the legal challenge. These stories, often-neglected in law review articles and judicial opinions, when told in depth add context and nuance to the case and help bring to life topics that seem boring if analyzed purely in legalese. For example, the Greens tell a story of a family who consider their work at Hobby Lobby to fulfill their calling from God. They sincerely believe they are expected to practice their religion at work even if it costs the corporation, and themselves personally, a great deal of money. The federal government tells the story of a nation in desperate need of better and less expensive health care options -- particularly for women. The government claims that women need cost-free preventive care (and particularly cost-free contraceptives) in order to improve their health and reduce unwanted pregnancies. Better access to contraceptives will also give women more power to control their reproductive lives and compete more effectively in the workplace. Part II brings these litigants to life and sets the stage for a discussion of the law in Part III and the application of the law to these parties in Part IV.
More specifically, Part III synthesizes the state of the law surrounding religious freedom and preventive health care at the time the Hobby Lobby case hit the Supreme Court. The article recounts the history of religious freedom in America and how this concept worked its way into the first words of the First Amendment and eventually into the very broadly protective Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This part ends with an evaluation of the ACA’s contraceptive mandate and its requirements regarding access to cost free preventive care for women.
Part IV evaluates the court decisions in the Hobby Lobby case. The discussion begins with the District Court’s denial of Hobby Lobby’s request that mandate be stayed and ends with the Supreme Court’s decision issued on the last day of its October 2013 term. All in all, the discussion moves with the case from a federal district court (where Hobby Lobby asked for a preliminary injunction) to the Tenth Circuit Court of appeals (where that decision was affirmed) to the United States Supreme Court (where Hobby Lobby’s appeal was summarily denied) back to the Circuit Court sitting en banc (where the district court was urged to issue the preliminary injunction) back to the district court (where the judge reversed himself and issued the injunction) and finally to the Supreme Court (where Hobby Lobby emerged victorious). This part summarizes the lower court decisions and evaluates the Supreme Court decision in detail, section by section.
Part V, the final substantive part of the article, begins with the statement that the Court reached the correct legal decision in the case considering: (1) the important place religious exercise holds in the fabric of America, today and historically, (2) the broad brush with which Congress painted RFRA and (3) the fact that Hobby Lobby’s employees will still receive all twenty FDA-approved contraceptives at no cost. The discussion then moves to the ethical issues spun off by the Supreme Court decision. The three ethical dilemmas chosen for analysis revolve around the questions of whether corporations can exercise religion, whether it is ethical for religion to trump third party rights and whether governments have any business analyzing the beliefs of a religious adherent in order to better craft public policy.
The article concludes with a call for further research into potential answers to these and other ethical dilemmas keeping in mind that Hobby Lobby is just the first shoe to drop in the fight between religious freedom and parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Shagufta Omar, International Islamic University, has uploaded to SSRN Marriage in Islam. The abstract reads:
The institution of family occupies a highly important position in Islam. Besides regulating human marital relations it plays a key role in the development and progression of a well-entrenched social order. It considers this relationship a sacrament social contract between two independent and pubescent persons and introduces checks and balances to protect and secure the rights of all stakeholders in this matter - husband, wife, children and the society large. Unlike certain other religions, Islam however does not regard marriage above dissolution and gives this right to both the spouses. According men and women equal social, legal and moral status as human beings, Islam differentiates between their status, roles and responsibilities in the family system, based on equity and justice. However, the true spirit of role differentiation is misunderstood by non Muslims as well as by less informed Muslims as establishing the patriarchal system endorsing gender equality and discrimination against women.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
From the Catholic Online:
In a culture where freedom has been redefined as a right to choose anything and liberty has degenerated into license, the newspeak of the age has declared the instrumental use of the body of another to be sexual freedom. It is not freedom. It turns people into objects of use and degrades the dignity of human sexuality.
Sadly, the same spirit of the age fails to recognize the integral unity of the human person, body, soul and spirit, and has turned the human body into a machine with parts which the revolutionaries think can simply be interchanged. Removal of genitals and attachment of artificially constructed ones which are absolutely incapable of ovulation or conception, does not change the structure of reality. The removal constitutes mutilation and the construction of artificial organs with no reproductive function does not alter the gender or sex of the person.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
We previously posted about the religious exemption from Title IX granted to a religious school over dormitory housing for a transgender student. The school is run by the Quakers, but the Quaker leaders don't agree that on what their religion holds. Debate Over Transgender Student Reveals Division in Quaker Church
Saturday, July 19, 2014
The US Department of Education (ED) recently granted George Fox University (GFU) a religious exemption from Title IX to, effectively granting the institution permission to discriminate against transgender student Jayce M. while he was pushing the administration to assign him to a male dormitory on campus.
Friday, May 30, 2014
So, a couple of days ago, Pope Francis had said that it may be possible, in the future, for the Catholic Church to openly accept married priests. Here's some elaboration about that issue from the Catholic Reporter:
- One, while a married priesthood is often seen as part of the "liberal" agenda for reform that includes ordaining women priests and overturning teachings on homosexuality and birth control, it's not. In fact, church officials across the spectrum periodically raise the option of married priests -- while keeping celibacy as the norm -- but they often do so in private.
- Two, because celibacy is a matter of law and tradition, not doctrine or dogma, it can be debated or even changed without signaling that the entire edifice of church teaching is about to crumble. Such a reform would be a pragmatic way of addressing a pastoral problem, and it has received a boost from none other than Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a favorite of conservatives, who allowed some married Anglican clergy to become Catholic priests.
- Three, Francis has framed the celibacy reform as one that should emerge from a local context, which reinforces his goal of decentralizing power and authority in the church. Celibacy could be a useful means of solving a problem while promoting collegiality and the idea of organic change in Catholicism.
Friday, May 2, 2014
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A coalition of clergy members is challenging North Carolina's constitutional ban on gay marriage with an unusual approach in a federal lawsuit: They say it violates their religious freedom.
The clergy members said in the lawsuit filed Monday that they'd like to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in their congregations, but they can't because of the "unjust law."
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
She used to wear a burqa in public, but now has had her face printed on thousands of ballot pamphlets for the provincial council in Wardak. She campaigns in person in a district, Saydabad, that is thick with Taliban.
The woman in question is 28 year-old Mariam Wardak's mother, who is running for public office in Afghanistan. More:
There is finally the sense here, after years of international aid and effort geared toward improving Afghan’s women’s lives, that women have become a significant part of Afghan political life, if not a powerful one.
On the other hand:
But their celebratory moment is also colored by the worry that those gains could so easily be reversed if extremists come back into power, or if Western aid dwindles. Those concerns have added urgency to this campaign season for women who are fighting to make their leadership more acceptable in a still deeply repressive society.
Friday, March 28, 2014
A timely article by Toni Massaro has been uploaded. Its titled "Nuts and Seeds: Disclosure of Religious Exemptions" and its abstract reads:
Closely watched cases pending before the United States Supreme Court address whether for-profit businesses may claim a statutory or constitutional right to an exemption from general laws that burden religious expression. These cases are part of a wider trend of expanded constitutional rights for for-profit actors, and of increased judicial and legislative sympathy for exemption requests by religious actors.
This Article offers a first look at steps government might take if the current trend continues, and if more exemption requests for commercial actors are allowed. It steps beyond the vigorous debate over whether to grant an exemption, and explores alternatives that may mitigate third-party burdens imposed by such exemptions, without unduly burdening the exempted commercial religious actors. It examines in particular an “exemption-subject-to-notice” option, under which exempted commercial actors would be required to provide notice to adversely affected third parties, or be subject to government-provided notice of their non-compliance. The Article concludes that a notice condition on exit from generally applicable laws is not a problem-free option. Nevertheless, it is worth exploring as a “third way” for government to manage the inevitable liberty collisions of a pluralistic democracy, and is a superb vehicle for illuminating the relative costs of emerging regulatory patchworks.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
The U.S. Supreme Court hears argument in the contraceptive mandate cases today. Lots of good reading on the case and its far-reaching implications.
Lots of good questions being asked out there. Why is religion always in opposition to women's rights? Why does gender discrimination seem more palatable than race -- What if employers refused health insurance coverage for black employees? And how did we get to this place of inserting our employers into our private health decisions?
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
From Arizona, Rev. Elizabeth Rambikur of First United Methodist Church Tucson responds to SB 1062 and HB 2153--the law that permits businesses to discriminate against gay patrons:
Our call as human beings, made in the image of God, is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and Jesus reminds those who would strive for the title of Christian that the second commandment is, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:38). The teachings of Jesus remind us that there is no law greater than the love of God and the love of ones neighbor as the self. It is here that all law — whether perceived as given by God or written by human beings - must begin.
In the most basic way Arizona SB 1062 and HB 2153 prohibit the full practice of Christianity because the fundamental teaching of love by Jesus Christ is violated when we practice discrimination against others. The United Methodist Church has shaped its discipline and faith practices through the crucible of the human rights movements of the last 231 years, as we have moved beyond slavery, beyond discrimination against women, past discrimination based on race, and beyond the denial of access to differently abled people. There is no question that the practice of discrimination is a violation of our faith as Christians....
And Michael Sean Winters wrote an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter:
...those who support this Arizona law must be challenged to explain why the “Selma analogy” is not apt....[M[any people in this vast country have sincerely held religious beliefs that are destructive of what I like to call the commonhealth of the nation, specifically the moral health of the nation. Bishops, of all people, should be aware of this.
How much stronger the Arizona bishops statement would be if they had coupled their support for the law with a clear statement that no Catholic businessman or businesswoman should claim warrant in the Gospels or the teachings of the Church for discriminating against gays. Instead, once again, we have aligned our preaching of the Gospel with a political agenda that is championed by hateful bigots.
And the essay concludes with what I think is a great rhetorical question:
And, then we wonder why young people want nothing to do with us? When bishops gather to bemoan the secularization of our society, they should start by looking in the mirror. If the face of Christianity is an angry hotelier who wants to place a “straights only” sign outside his inn, then we have no one but ourselves to blame for the decline of Christian faith.