Talk About: Law and Religion
Blog of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies
On 27 June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a former high school football coach had a right to pray on the 50-yard line at the conclusion of a game. BYU Law Professor Frederick Mark Gedicks explains why he thinks this decision is problematic, particularly for small religious groups, and how it will affect the Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence.
0:14 – Kennedy v. Bremerton School District case
3:56 – The U.S. Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on public school prayer
06:44 – The coercion test
09:02 – The Lemon test and the endorsement test
13:00 – Kennedy and changes in the U.S. Supreme Court
By John Moroz Smith
This is the theme: Ukraine’s relative freedom and openness and governmental weakness (especially as compared to Russia) since Soviet collapse in 1991 has created a busy hive of voluntary civic activity—especially religious activity—that likely will outlast the invasion forces. The nature and intensity of that voluntary activity is unprecedented in that oft-occupied nation’s history. It has reorganized Ukrainian society away from its Soviet legacy, connected Ukrainians with free peoples and powerful institutions abroad, revived Ukraine’s spiritual and moral strength, and strengthened its resiliency against totalitarianism.
Now that 100+ days of full Russian invasion have followed 30 years of Ukrainian independence, what big picture emerges? The Russian bear has returned, reprising it role of centuries past as a shameless marauder, intent on destroying the Ukrainian hive. The bear’s mass and sharp claws can damage the physical hive—brutally, remorselessly—and grab gobs of honey. But the bee colony’s real strength has become its organization, adaptability, commitment, and teamwork. The bees can build, resist, and rebuild. (And yes, the Stingers have helped.)
Ambassador Figel shared a story of his efforts to engage the government of Pakistan on freedom of religion and belief. As he explained, his efforts were met with, to say the least, polite skepticism. Finally his interlocutor asked, “What do you want to talk about?” Mr. Figel answered, “I’d like to come and talk about human dignity and how it’s important for all people, at all times, in all places.” With this, there was a noticeable shift, and the voice on the other side of the phone said, “Ah, human dignity, karama, in Arabic. This is an important concept in our holy book, The Koran. Please come. Let’s talk.” And as Jan Figel explained it to us, that opened the door. It helped build a bridge. It started a conversation that became increasingly substantive, increasingly candid, increasingly honest, increasingly deep, and ultimately ended in some rather substantial developments in Pakistan, one of which was the release of Asia Bibi, a prisoner of conscience who had been accused of blasphemy.
Traditionally, religion was thought as something to some extent objective in the sense that most religions had a hierarchy and doctrine—something that was easily identifiable. (I mean religions exercised in Europe; this is not applicable, for example, to Hinduism.) People understood religion as a collective exercise; manifestation of religion was considered as a matter of belief and relation to the religious community, the organized church, and, at the top of this structure, the deity. This approach has already changed. To illustrate the difference, I would like to refer to SAS v. France (2014), the burqa case, where the applicant says that she’s wearing the burqa with the aim of “satisfying herself and her conscience.” Her wish to wear this attire was not based on a religious command but on her personal identity, which allowed certain behavioral modifications. Thus, her religious conviction was understood as a matter of identity. The ECtHR reflected upon that because the Court accepted that wearing the burqa was not simply a freedom of religion issue but also a personal life issue, which is technically correct.
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