Church and State

In wake of Supreme Court decision, 'clear defense needed of church-state wall' (Des Moines Register)

Considering the U.S. Supreme Court's contentious struggles over free speech and religion, it was a surprise to say the least to see Wednesday's ruling unanimously endorsing a government installation of the Ten Commandments in a city park.

While this ruling will likely have limited impact, it raises troubling questions about how dedicated this court – particularly the younger justices, who will be shaping it for decades to come – will be to maintaining the proverbial wall separating church and state.

 
 

VIDEO: Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought

A panel from the 2007 J. Reuben Clark Law Society Conference featuring: Robert F. Cochran, Jr., Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law; W. Cole Durham, Gates University Professor of Law, Director, BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU; and Elizabeth Sewell, Associate Director, BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU.

 
 

BREAKING NEWS: President Obama Creates New Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

By Derek H. Davis, J.D., Ph.D. Excerpt: "President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Thursday, February 5, to create the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The office replaces the controversial Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives that George W. Bush created to provide government grants to churches and other faith-based organizations to administer welfare programs. "The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another–or even religious groups over secular groups," Obama stated when announcing the new office at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. The purpose, he said, “will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state."

 
 

BREAKING NEWS: President Obama Creates New Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

By Derek H. Davis, J.D., Ph.D. Excerpt: "President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Thursday, February 5, to create the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The office replaces the controversial Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives that George W. Bush created to provide government grants to churches and other faith-based organizations to administer welfare programs. "The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another–or even religious groups over secular groups," Obama stated when announcing the new office at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. The purpose, he said, “will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state."

 
 

Embracing Exclusivity: How civic religion at inauguration abridges religious freedom

By Michael Newdow – EXCERPT: "Two months ago, when the American people chose Barack Obama to serve in the highest office in the land, it seemed that Homer Plessy's dream had finally been realized. America, we thought then, truly stands for the justice and equality guaranteed in its Constitution. Yet, in a few days, as our new president steps up to the inaugural podium, the reality will be that government-sanctioned favoritism – now for religion, instead of race – will continue."

 
 

The First Baptist in America (Florida Baptist Witness)

The earliest Baptists in America stemmed from a group of like-minded individuals who surrounded Roger Williams. It was on Feb. 5, 1631, that Roger Williams (1603-1683) and his wife sailed from Bristol on the ship Lyon and landed at Nantasket, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

 
 

Illinois law requiring moment of silence in public schools ruled unconstitutional

The court upheld the principle that students have a constitutional right to pray on their own at any time and that the government or the schools should not arbitrate when and how students pray.

 
 

New Religions: A Small Sect Makes it to the Supreme Court

By Monte Sahlin – The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted an appeal from a religion that you probably never heard of until it hit the news yesterday. Summum is rooted in gnostic Christianity (or, at least modern understandings of gnosticism) and ancient Egyptian religion (or, at least contemporary understandings of ancient Egyptian religion). It was founded in 1975 and has its headquarters in (of all places) Utah.

The case before the Supreme Court is based on the fact that the small town in Utah has a large, stone monument in the city park of the Ten Commandments. The believers in Summum petitioned the city council to add another monument with their seven principles of good behavior. The city council refused, thereby establishing the religions of the Ten Commandments (Judaism and Christianity) over the little sect of Summum. The small religion has raised enough funds to hire attorneys and appeal their case all the way to the top court in America.

There are serious constitutional issues about religious liberty in this case even if you have a hard time taking Summum seriously. But, I want to focus on something else: The way new religions are being invented and why so many people are moving away from the large, historic faiths.

 
 

Bishops insist on work-free Sunday protection by European Parliament (DI-VE)

The Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Communities (COMECE) on Thursday expressed its regret at the refusal to put to vote several amendments aimed at the inclusion of a work-free Sunday in the new Working Time Directive by the chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.

 
 

European Church leaders call for protection of 'Sunday rest' (SofiaEcho)

The church representatives expressed their wish to see the Sunday rest day being better protected in national legislations as well as in the future EU working time directive which currently is being revised.