“The Bear and the Bees”: How Religious Freedom Strengthened Ukrainian Resiliency

John Moroz Smith leads the law department of a global financial services company. Smith served in the George W. Bush White House, clerked for Judge Samuel Alito, and served as a U.S. Army reservist.

As I layer the daily news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over the range of my experiences since 1992 in both countries [1], an underlying, under-appreciated theme strikes me. It helps explain why the initial expectations of Ukraine’s attacker and allies alike were so wrong about Ukraine’s resiliency. It also hints at how this conflict likely plays out.

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.


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From Chaplains of Maidan to Military Chaplains: One Year after the Tomos





Post by Catherine Wanner, Professor of History and Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University, and Tetiana Kalenychenko, Coordinator and Facilitator of the Dialogue in Action Project, and Lecturer in Religious Studies at National Pedagogical Dragomanov University.

The role of religious organizations in addressing social and cultural policies has only intensified since the Maidan protests of November 2013-February 2014. One of the signature accomplishments of former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, whose slogan was “Army, Language, Faith,” was securing the Tomos that led to the creation of a canonically recognized Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). In an already crowded religious landscape, the question now is how this new church might shape social and political policies. Will the OCU take a lead from its northern neighbor and maintain a close alliance with the state? This is a distinct possibility given the priority President Poroshenko placed on the creation of this church in the first place for building national solidarity and his active role in bringing it into existence. (more…)

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Masterpiece Cakeshop: And the winner is … pluralism?

Elizabeth A. Clark is Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. She joined an amicus brief of 34 legal scholars in support of the cakeshop in this case

No one seems pleased with the result in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights CommissionIn significant ways, both those supporting Jack Phillips, the baker, and proponents of Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the same-sex couple, lost. On the one hand, the Supreme Court refused to grant unqualified protection to those who conscientiously object to providing goods and services to same-sex couples, and at the same time the court shut down efforts to assert that all forms of discrimination affecting same-sex couples should be labeled mere bigotry. The court pushed for a more pluralist approach, noting both that “gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,” and that “[a]t the same time, the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.” (more…)

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