By this author
Over the past few election cycles, Colorado has become an important "battleground state" and a bellwether for larger electoral trends. Featuring contested races for both a Senate seat and the Governor's mansion, it is arguably the most important site of the upcoming midterm elections. The gubernatorial contest has Bob Beauprez, an established figure in the Colorado Republican party, attempting to unseat (the previously very popular) Gov. Hickenlooper.
Social issues have entered the two campaigns in some expected ways -- abortion, health care coverage, gun safety laws, and marijuana legalization. But during these gubernatorial debates, the issue of the death penalty has also briefly held the spotlight.
Back in May, Beauprez made a campaign promise that surprised many, since he presents himself as a faithful Roman Catholic. "When I'm governor," he said during a GOP debate, "Nathan Dunlap will be executed." Or, in a headline offered by Mother Jones, "Elect Me, and I'll Kill that Guy."
It goes without saying that the worst tragedy of Syria's war is the loss of life and liberty. Those with the power to ameliorate suffering must do so. But academics and other scholars of the region don't have that power, and instead they have been developing their own means of trying to help Syria. The past two years have seen a dramatic expansion in efforts to track Syria's cultural heritage.
Cultural property -- monuments, buildings, artifacts, museums -- is not superficial ornamentation of a nation's identity. Rather, nations use cultural heritage to understand their pasts, bolster their spirits during times of conflict, and imagine their futures. For these reasons, archaeologists and historians of Syria, whether professional or amateur, have built up an impressive infrastructure for the acquisition and dissemination of information.
When I commute by bus, I am often the only white person on it. I've been to diversity training many times and absorbed its lessons. I've had my classroom secretly subjected to a race audit -- a student who was tracking how many non-white voices were in the syllabus or cited as authorities in class. I know what redlining is.
In short, as a student and a teacher, I've been confronted about my white privilege quite consistently.
But I still needed Ferguson.
During oral arguments in Hobby Lobby v. Sibelius and subsequent written opinions, the Supreme Court debated the case's unintended consequences.
Would laws requiring vaccinations or prohibiting child labor, for example, now be affected by the new interpretation of RFRA? Or would the "parade of horribles" never come to pass?
A new case from Utah provides a surprising early glimpse: a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) has successfully refused a federal subpoena based on his religious belief in secrecy.
Writing today at Salon, Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig rounds up recent polling on religious attitudes in order to propose that the Religious Right is in its twilight years and the "Christian left" is on the ascendant:
With millennial religious and political attitudes in flux compared to our predecessors, the upcoming years could be the Christian left’s big moment.
There are certainly data that prima facie support this analysis, but does it hold up to sociological scrutiny?
In response to the Hobby Lobby decision, democrats in Congress are planning to prioritize a bill that overrides the Supreme Court's expansion of rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). According to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), "The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act reinstates the ACA’s contraceptive coverage and protects the right of all Americans, men and women alike, to make decisions about their medical care in consultation with their doctor, not their boss."
Five years ago I wrote two articles for Commonweal about religion at Guantanamo. The shorter follow-up dealt with Rasul v. Rumsfeld (and Rasul v. Myers), in which the plaintiffs appealed in part to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
At that time, courts ruled that Guantanamo detainees are not "persons" under RFRA:
Congress legislated against the background of precedent establishing that nonresident aliens were not among the 'person[s]' protected by the Fifth Amendment ... and were not among 'the people' protected by the Fourth Amendment.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Janice Rodgers Brown admitted she was troubled by the finding.
Accepting plaintiffs' argument that RFRA imports the entire Free Exercise Clause edifice into the military detention context would revolutionize the treatment of captured combatants in a way Congress did not contemplate. Yet, the majority's approach is not much better. It leaves us with the unfortunate and quite dubious distinction of being the only court to declare those held at Guantanamo are not "person[s]." This is a most regrettable holding in a case where plaintiffs have alleged high-level U.S. government officials treated them as less than human. (italics added)
She further argued that Congress did not foresee a situation like Guantanamo: "prolonged military detentions of alleged enemy combatants were not part of our consciousness." She wrote that "Congress should revisit RFRA with these circumstances in mind."
It is also true that Congress did not foresee large for-profit corporations as persons protected by RFRA. With the new, expanded definition of 'person' post-Hobby Lobby, lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees have thus filed a Temporary Restraining Order in the D.C. District Court.
When reading Justice Alito's majority opinion in Hobby Lobby alongside Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion, the unifying thread is clear. And the results don't bode well for the pending cases of religious non-profits against the HHS mandate.
A for-profit corproration has been granted its claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) only because Kennedy maintains that the government did not use the least restrictive means of providing its compelling interest. From Kennedy (p. 3):
The means the Government chose is the imposition of a direct mandate on the employers in these cases. ... But in other instances the Government has allowed the same contraception coverage in issue here to be provided to employees of nonprofit religious organizations, as an accommodation to the religious objections of those entities. ... The accommodation works by requiring insurance companies to cover, without cost sharing, contraception coverage for female employees who wish it. That accommodation equally furthers the Government’s interest but does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs.
HHS shouldn't distinguish between different religious believers, "when it may treat both equally by offering both of them the same accommodation." Later he repeats that "the mechanism for doing so is already in place." Thus the accommodation of religious non-profits currently on offer is precisely the legal model available for the for-profits (such as Hobby Lobby).
COLORADO — Sitting with four high-information primary voters yesterday, I was amazed to learn that none of them had decided whom to vote for in the gubernatorial race. When each would pull his or her SUV up to the drive-thru ballot stations here in Tancredo country (CO-6), the best decision wasn’t clear.
But it’s not necessary to psychoanalyze my family members here in public. They were confused for good reason: the Republican party as a national entity is incoherent. And its own voters know it.
Are conservatives underrepresented in the theology and religion departments of our nation’s colleges and universities?
This was one of the questions discussed at the 2014 annual meeting of the Catholic Theological Society of America and already here on this blog. It’s a question I’ve been pondering for some time, and I wrote about it once in these pages.
The basic answer is Yes. When compared to the overall percentage of conservatives in religious communities or society at large, conservatives are underrepresented in academic theology.
However, when compared to conservatism as represented in other academic fields, theology is not very different.
That’s why I think the more interesting question concerns academia on the whole, of which theology is just one field that fits the trend reasonably well. The results of the limited sociological studies on this issue, notably that of Matthew Woessner and April Kelly-Woessner (good summary here) and, more recently, that of Neil Gross, show that self-selection is the primary reason the professoriate leans liberal. There are few conservative professors because, under the current conditions, few conservatives want to become professors.