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Cert. Denied In Challenge To High School Unit On Islam

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in Wood v. Arnold, (Docket No. 18-1438, certiorari denied 10/15/2019). (Order List.)   In the case, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a high school student’s Establishment Clause and compelled speech challenges to a classroom unit on The Muslim World.  One challenge was to the teacher’s Power Point slide which included the statement that most Muslims’ faith is stronger than that of the average Christian.  The other challenge was to the requirement on a work sheet for the student to fill in two words of the shahada. (See prior posting.) The Free Thinker blog has more on the case.

You can learn more about this issue here.

It Shouldn’t Be This Easy to Fool the Academic Left

Somehow it is fitting that the most extraordinary academic hoax of our time would deal with dog parks, dildos, Hooters, masturbation, fat shaming, and a feminist Mein Kampf.

In a prank that is alternately hilarious, appalling, and disturbing, three puckish academics managed to place no fewer than seven “shoddy, absurd, unethical” articles in “respectable” academic journals that trafficked in the growing field of grievance studies—a field that includes gender and queer studies, critical race theory and a variety of post-modern constructivist theories now fashionable in the humanities and social sciences. If nothing else, they demonstrated that academic leftism is a target ripe for ridicule as well as outrage.

As they note in their paper, “ Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship,” the seven fake papers were the “tip of the iceberg” of sophistry in the hyper-ideological swamps of academia.

The absurdity of the paper was first highlighted by the twitter account known as @RealPeerReview, which exposes a wide range of junk scholarship (if you don’t follow it, you really ought to.) When the Wall Street Journal and others began sniffing around to ascertain the authorship of the piece, however, the gig was up and the three hoaxers decided to come clean. They admitted that they were also behind the “nutty and inhumane” idea to make white male students sit on the floor as a form of reparations, a paper that explored why straight men “rarely anally self-penetrate using sex toys,” and had even gotten a paper accepted in a feminist journal that was actually a chapter from Mein Kampf, “with fashionable buzzwords switched in.”

In addition to the seven papers that were accepted, they had another three accepted but not published; another seven were “still in play,” and only six had been rejected by peer reviewers.

Their success had been was so spectacular—and the results so farcical—that Harvard’s Yascha Mounck has labeled the grievance study hoax “Sokal Squared,” a reference to what, until now, had been academia’s most elaborate ruse.

On May 18, 1996, the New York Times broke the story that one of the trendiest, most prestigious academic journals in the country had been the victim of an elaborate hoax. The journal Social Text had published a lengthy post-modernist critique of science, unaware that the whole thing was a parody, a complete spoof of academia’s “self-indulgent nonsense.”

The article, written by a physicist named Alan Sokal was “a hodgepodge of supported statements, outright mistakes, and impenetrable jargon,” wrote the editors of Lingua Franca, the journal that exposed the prank. Filled with references to “hip theorists” like Jacques Derrida, it was “full of nonsense and errors.” But it had been published nonetheless.

Hilarity ensued as the implications of the prank became clear not least because it seemed to confirm suspicions that beneath the academic gibberish lurked … well, just gibberish.

But the latest attempt to expose academic drivel is in some ways more ambitious, because rather than simply relying on word salads of jargon, the authors, Helen Pluckrose, James A. Lindsay, and Peter Boghossian, set out to mimic the mind-set of the “identitarian madness coming out of the academic and activist left.”

They began each paper with a bizarre or outrageous thesis—that astronomy is sexist, or that men should be trained as dogs—but hijacked the logic, language, and dogmas of existing grievance literature to support their claims. The papers were notable for their shoddiness and preposterousness, but—and here was the key—they fit seamlessly into what passes for scholarship in the world of grievance studies.

“While our papers are all outlandish or intentionally broken in significant ways, it is important to recognize that they blend in almost perfectly with others in the disciplines under our consideration,” they explained. “As we progressed, we started to realize that just about anything can be made to work, so long as it falls within the moral orthodoxy and demonstrates understanding of the existing literature.”

So, for example, they wanted to see if they could get a respected journal to “publish papers that seek to problematize heterosexual men’s attraction to women and will accept very shoddy qualitative methodology and ideologically-motivated interpretations which support this.” Again, success—the journal Sex Roles published “An Ethnography of Breastaurant Masculinity: Themes of Objectification, Sexual Conquest, Male Control, and Masculine Toughness in a Sexually Objectifying Restaurant,” in which the (fake) authors argued that men go to Hooters “because they are nostalgic for patriarchal dominance and enjoy being able to order attractive women around.”

Because the three pranksters wanted to see if they see if they could get journals to accept arguments “which are ludicrous and positively dangerous to health if they support cultural constructivist arguments around body positivity and fatphobia,” they wrote a paper arguing for the sport of “fat bodybuilding.” It was duly published in Fat Studies.

And the journal Sexuality and Culture eagerly accepted a piece on sex toys—“Going in Through the Back Door: Challenging Straight Male Homohysteria and Transphobia through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use” that concluded that the male reluctance to use dildos was “actually homophobic, transphobic, and anti-feminist.”

But their pièce de résistance was their success in getting the journal Affilia to publish a rewrite of a chapter of Mein Kampf by titling it “Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism,” and leavening it with feminist jargon to distract from its Hitlerian antecedents.

Beneath the merriment, the authors made a deadly serious point. “The problem we’ve been studying is of the utmost relevance to the real world and everyone in it,” they write. Much of the work now being produced by academia’s growing and voluble grievance industry, “is positively horrifying and surreal while exerting considerable influence on the field and beyond.”

Pluckrose, Lindsay and Boghossian—who are all self-proclaimed liberals—warn progressives who care about advancing social justice, that “these fields of study do not continue the important and noble liberal work of the civil rights movements; they corrupt it while trading upon their good names to keep pushing a kind of social snake oil onto a public that keeps getting sicker.”

Something has gone wrong in the university—especially in certain fields within the humanities. Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous….

This makes the problem a grave concern that’s rapidly undermining the legitimacy and reputations of universities, skewing politics, drowning out needed conversations, and pushing the culture war to ever more toxic and existential polarization.

The whistleblowers called on universities to launch a “thorough review,” of all of the fields suffused with grievance studies “in order to separate knowledge-producing disciplines and scholars from those generating constructivist sophistry.”

But such sustained introspection or reformation seem unlikely, given the arc of academia’s new orthodoxies, which are regarded as authoritative in so many disciplines. Reaction from the academic left has been predictable, with the authors attacked as part of a racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic right-wing assault on legitimate scholarship. Feminist scholar Alison Phipps issued a call via twitter (which has since been deleted) for her fellow academics to “please stand by colleagues in Gender Studies/Critical Race Studies/Fat Studies & other areas targeted by this journal article hoax. This is a coordinated attack from the right.” A critique in Slate also downplayed the gravity of the hoax and questioned why the story would be released “in the midst of the Kavanaugh imbroglio—a time when the anger and the horror of male anxiety is so resplendent in the news.”

Academia’s professional response to the whistleblowers is likely to be even harsher. The Wall Street Journal notes that it is likely the hoax will result in the academic ex-communication of the three scholars.

Mr. Boghossian doesn’t have tenure and expects the university will fire or otherwise punish him. Ms. Pluckrose predicts she’ll have a hard time getting accepted to a doctoral program. Mr. Lindsay said he expects to become “an academic pariah,” barred from professorships or publications.

Even so, Lindsay thinks it was all worth it, telling the Journal’s Jillian Kay Melchior, “For us, the risk of letting biased research continue to influence education, media, policy and culture is far greater than anything that will happen to us for having done this.”

By Charles J. Sykes, published in The Weekly Standard on October 8, 2019 and can be found here.

Citizen Lacks Standing To Challenge City’s Annual Menorah Lighting

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Taylor v. City of Flagstaff, (D AZ, Oct. 9, 2019), an Arizona federal district court held that a citizen of Flagstaff, Arizona lacked standing to challenge the constitutionality of the city’s annual Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall.  The court said in part:

Although Plaintiff is a resident of Flagstaff…, Plaintiff did not allege that he has had direct contact with the Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall, or any other religious ceremony purportedly held in City Hall. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff’s contact with the Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall has, at most, been via newspaper articles reporting the “Flagstaff Hanukkah tradition.”…. While Plaintiff alleges that he has been “quite concerned” and “very disturbed” by the Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall, … —without more, the injury asserted by Plaintiff is too generalized and remote to confer standing….

The court concluded that the same test for standing applies to both plaintiff’s Establishment Clause claim and his claim under the no-aid provision of the state constitution.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Is this it?: A Trump-hater’s Guide to Mueller Skepticism

Mueller’s comportment suggests a man who’s fallen prey to the same state of mind that warped Ken Starr—namely disgust over the people you’re investigating and a desire to justify the sunk capital. Even if the special counsel presents one hell of a report, Democrats must ask: was it worth it?
In the autumn of 1995, millions of Indians flocked to New Delhi after reports that a statue of Ganesha, the Hindu deity of good luck, was drinking milk from a spoon. It turned out that Ganesha, in the form of carved white stone, was a bit porous, and he wasn’t drinking the milk so much as getting coated in it, as each of the thousands of spoonfuls trickled down his side, but a collective thrill prevailed for a while. I relate this incident because its rhythms—big news, then frenzy, then comedown—bear a strong resemblance to those of Russiagate, with each development setting the Resistance into a frenzy of milk-buying and statue-feeding that fades only after a few days, replaced by an unspoken agreement to wait for further reports on Ganesha’s movements.

For many Robert Mueller watchers, the air these days is electric. People sense the big shoes are about to drop. Donald Trump has submitted his written answers to Mueller’s questions. Paul Manafort has entered a plea agreement, but then continued to lie—at least according to Mueller. Jerome Corsi, fringe-right author and personality, is vowing to go to jail for life rather than sign on to Mueller’s version of events. Roger Stone is expecting to be indicted for something. So is Donald Trump Jr. And, most significant of all to those looking for a big payoff, Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timeline of a deal he was trying to make to construct a 100-story Trump-branded tower in Moscow. It turns out that the deal exploration continued past the time Trump had secured the Republican nomination, and Cohen and his associate Felix Sater, a real-estate promoter and one-time racketeer, had even discussed giving Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse in the building. “This is it,” people are saying. “This is the big one!”

Certainly, Trump’s ethical standards are low, but if sleaziness were a crime then many more people from our ruling class would be in jail. It is sleazy, but not criminal, to try to find out in advance what WikiLeaks has on Hillary Clinton. It is sleazy, but not criminal, to take a meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer promising a dossier of dirt on Clinton. (Just as, it should be mentioned, it is sleazy, but not criminal, to pay a guy to go to Russia to put together a dossier of dirt on Trump. This is one reason why the Clinton campaign lied about its connection to the Steele dossier, albeit without the disadvantage of being under oath.) It is sleazy, but not criminal, to pursue a business deal while you’re running for president. Mueller has nailed people for trying to prevaricate about their sleaze, so we already have a couple of guilty pleas over perjury, with more believed to be on the way. But the purpose of the investigation was to address suspicions of underlying conspiracy—that is, a plan by Trump staffers to get Russian help on a criminal effort. Despite countless man-hours of digging, this conspiracy theory, the one that’s been paying the bills at Maddow for a couple of years now, has come no closer to being borne out. (Or, as the true believers would say, at least not yet.)

Partisanship is hostile to introspection, but at some point maybe we’ll look back and think again about what was unleashed in the panic over Russian influence. Trump’s White House has pursued what is arguably the harshest set of policies toward Russia since the fall of Communism—hardly something to celebrate—yet nearly all the pressure, from the center-left as much as the right, is toward making it even tougher. As for those tapping along to S.N.L. songs in praise of Mueller and his indictments, they might want to remember that Trump won’t always be in office. The weapons you create for your side today will be used by the other side against you tomorrow. Do we really want the special-counsel investigation to become a staple of presidential life? It’s a creation with few boundaries on scope and a setup that encourages the selection of a suspect followed by a search for the crime, rather than the other way around. This caused calamities in the era of Bill Clinton, and it doesn’t get any better just because the partisan dynamics are reversed.

Let’s take a moment to consider Mueller himself. The cut of his jib is likable, and the trad Brooks Brothers vibe of his wardrobe is a perfect complement to his job title. But it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that he’s playing a political game at this point. To be fair, I’m vulnerable to confirmation bias of my own in this assessment, since about a year ago I suggested that Mueller was going to drag out his investigation until 2019, when Democrats were likely to be back in charge of the House, and seeing a prediction play out can lead to unwarranted certitude. But the reports we’re starting to see suggest a man who’s fallen prey to the same state of mind that warped Ken Starr—namely disgust over the people you’re investigating and a desire to justify the sunk capital.

Our justice system gives prosecutors a frightening amount of power as it is, and nothing tempts misuse of it quite like the belief in a narrative in the face of a disappointing witness. George Papadopoulos has told people he pleaded guilty to perjury because Mueller was threatening to prosecute him as an unregistered agent of Israel. Jerome Corsi insists that Mueller was (and is) threatening him with a raft of indictments unless he signed on to an untrue story of how he came to believe (or know) that WikiLeaks had hacked the e-mails of John Podesta.

If it’s any consolation to Trump haters, we san say this much: the special counsel’s office is going to put together a hell of a report. It will have less sex than Starr’s did, but that’s for the best, and the testimony of Michael Cohen will still guarantee a lot of great scenes, many of them certain to become immortal and embarrassing. Trumpworld won’t fare well under a bright light. Like Starr, Mueller is also likely to include footnotes and selections that will hint at criminality, the things he suspects but couldn’t prove, and the most ardent believers in collusion will claim vindication. But the international conspiracies will be few, and the collateral damage of the Russia scare will be extensive, stretching far beyond Trump or his circle to the country as a whole. It might hurt a president who many Americans hate, but even the president’s most ardent foes should reflect on a question that will linger: Was it worth it?

Christian Student Group Can Retain Selective Leadership Requirements

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Intervarsity Christian Fellowship USA v. University of Iowa, (SD IA, Sept. 27, 2019), an Iowa federal district court held that the University of Iowa and three of its administrators violated the free speech and free exercise rights of a Christian student organization when it revoked its registered student organization status. The University’s action was taken because Intervarsity Christian Fellowship required its leaders to affirm the groups Christian statement of faith. The court said in part:

by granting the exceptions it has to the Human Rights Policy and refusing to make a similar exception for InterVarsity, the University has made a value judgment that its secular reasons for deviating from the Human Rights Policy are more important than InterVarsity’s religious reasons for the deviation it seeks. Because this reflects an impermissible “value judgment in favor of secular motivations,” … the University’s decision to deregister InterVarsity is subject to strict scrutiny.

Becket issued a press release announcing the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

“Church Autonomy” Requires Dismissal of Fired Faculty Member’s Claims

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Garrick v. Moody Bible Institute, (ND IL, Sept. 25, 2019), an Illinois federal district court held that the “church autonomy” doctrine requires dismissal of claims by a former faculty member of a religious college that she was terminated because of her advocacy in favor of women serving as clergy members. The court said in part:

Garrick’s disagreement with Moody’s beliefs on the role of women in the ministry underlies the majority of Garrick’s allegations….. Under these circumstances, if the Court were to delve into the disputes posed by Garrick, it would impermissibly inject the auspices of government into religious doctrine and governance.

However the court said plaintiff could refile Title VII claims if they are untethered from her disagreements with Moody’s religious views.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Why We Miss the WASPs

By Ross Douthat, published on December 5, 2018 in The New York Times and can be found here.

Their more meritocratic, diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well.

The nostalgia flowing since the passing of George H.W. Bush has many wellsprings: admiration for the World War II generation and its dying breed of warrior-politicians, the usual belated media affection for moderate Republicans, the contrast between the elder Bush’s foreign policy successes and the failures of his son, and the contrast between any honorable politician and the current occupant of the Oval Office.

But two of the more critical takes on Bush nostalgia got closer to the heart of what was being mourned, in distant hindsight, with his death. Writing in The Atlantic, Peter Beinart described the elder Bush as the last president deemed “legitimate” by both of our country’s warring tribes — before the age of presidential sex scandals, plurality-winning and popular-vote-losing chief executives, and white resentment of the first black president. Also in The Atlantic, Franklin Foer described “the subtext” of Bush nostalgia as a “fondness for a bygone institution known as the Establishment, hardened in the cold of New England boarding schools, acculturated by the late-night rituals of Skull and Bones, sent off to the world with a sense of noblesse oblige. For more than a century, this Establishment resided at the top of the American caste system. Now it is gone, and apparently people wish it weren’t.”

I think you can usefully combine these takes, and describe Bush nostalgia as a longing for something America used to have and doesn’t really any more — a ruling class that was widely (not universally, but more widely than today) deemed legitimate, and that inspired various kinds of trust (intergenerational, institutional) conspicuously absent in our society today.

Put simply, Americans miss Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well.

Foer suggests this nostalgia is mostly bunk, since the WASPs were so often bigots (he quotes Henry Adams’s fears of a “furtive Yacoob or Ysaac still reeking of the ghetto”), since their cultivation of noblesse oblige was really all about “preserving [a] place at the high table of American life,” and since so many of their virtues were superficial, a matter of dressing nicely while practicing imperialism, or writing lovely thank-you notes while they outsourced the dirty work of politics to race-baiting operatives.

“Those who are mourning the passing of the old Establishment should mourn its many failures, too,” he writes. Which is fair enough: The old ruling class was bigoted and exclusive and often cruel, it had failures aplenty, and as a Catholic I hold no brief for its theology (and don’t get me started on its Masonry).

However, one of the lessons of the age of meritocracy is that building a more democratic and inclusive ruling class is harder than it looks, and even perhaps a contradiction in terms. You can get rid of the social registers and let women into your secret societies and privilege SATs over recommendations from the rector of Justin and the headmaster of Saint Grottlesex … and you still end up with something that is clearly a self-replicating upper class, a powerful elite, filling your schools and running your public institutions.

Not only that, but you even end up with an elite that literally uses the same strategy of exclusion that WASPs once used against Jews to preserve its particular definition of diversity from high-achieving Asians — with the only difference being that our elite is more determined to deceive itself about how and why it’s discriminating.

So if some of the elder Bush’s mourners wish we still had a WASP establishment, their desire probably reflects a belated realization that certain of the old establishment’s vices were inherent to any elite, that meritocracy creates its own forms of exclusion — and that the WASPs had virtues that their successors have failed to inherit or revive.

Those virtues included a spirit of noblesse oblige and personal austerity and piety that went beyond the thank-you notes and boat shoes and prep school chapel going — a spirit that trained the most privileged children for service, not just success, that sent men like Bush into combat alongside the sons of farmers and mechanics in the same way that it sent missionaries and diplomats abroad in the service of their churches and their country.

The WASP virtues also included a cosmopolitanism that was often more authentic than our own performative variety — a cosmopolitanism that coexisted with white man’s burden racism but also sometimes transcended it, because for every Brahmin bigot there was an Arabist or China hand or Hispanophile who understood the non-American world better than some of today’s shallow multiculturalists.

And somehow the combination of pious obligation joined to cosmopolitanism gave the old establishment a distinctive competence and effectiveness in statesmanship — one that from the late-19th century through the middle of the 1960s was arguably unmatched among the various imperial elites with whom our establishment contended, and that certainly hasn’t been matched by our feckless leaders in the years since George H.W. Bush went down to political defeat.

So as an American in the old dispensation, you didn’t have to like the establishment — and certainly its members were often eminently hateable — to prefer their leadership to many of the possible alternatives. And as an American today, you don’t have to miss everything about the WASPs, or particularly like their remaining heirs, to feel nostalgic for their competence.

The interesting question is whether they had to die off as they did. The decline of the old establishment is often portrayed as a simple inevitability — with all those baby boomers storming the universities, all that demographic change sweeping away white Protestant America, how could the WASPs hope to preserve their rule?

Certainly something had to change. But along with the establishment failure in Vietnam, which hastened the collapse of the old elite’s authority, there was also a loss of religious faith and cultural confidence, and a belief among the last generation of true WASPs that the emerging secular meritocracy would be morally and intellectually superior to their own style of elite. Thus under ’60s mandarins like the Yale president Kingman Brewster the WASP ascendancy did not simply fall; it pre-emptively dissolved itself.

I’m not sure that self-abnegation has aged well. In any scenario the WASP elite would have had to diversify and adapt. But its virtues were to some extent transferable to a more diverse society: The establishment had always been somewhat permeable to arrivistes, Jews and Catholics imitated WASP habits in the 1940s and 1950s, and in our era their admirable influence is still felt in figures as different as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

So it’s possible to imagine adaptation rather than surrender as a different WASP strategy across the 1960s and 1970s. In such a world the establishment would have still admitted more blacks, Jews, Catholics and Hispanics (and more women) to its ranks … but it would have done so as a self-consciously elite-crafting strategy, rather than under the pseudo-democratic auspices of the SAT and the high school resume and the dubious ideal of “merit.” At the same time it would have retained both its historic religious faith (instead of exchanging Protestant rigor for a post-Christian Social Gospel and a soft pantheism) and its more self-denying culture (instead of letting all that wash away in the flood of boomer-era emotivism). The goal would have been to keep piety and discipline embedded in the culture of a place like Harvard, rather than the mix of performative self-righteousness and raw ambition that replaced them.

Such an effort might also have had spillover effects on politics. It’s de rigueur for liberals to lament the decline of the Rockefeller Republicans, or the compromises that a moderate northeastern WASP like George H.W. Bush made with Sunbelt populism. But a WASP establishment that couldn’t muster the self-confidence to hold on to Yale and Harvard was never likely to maintain its hold on a mass political organization like the G.O.P. Whereas an establishment that still believed in its mission within its own ivied bastions might have been seen as more politically imposing in the wider world — instead of seeing its last paladin, a war hero and statesman in a grand American tradition, dismissed in the boomer era as a “wimp.”

The point of this counterfactual is not to just join the nostalgic chorus around Bush’s departure for the Great Kennebunkport in the Skies. Rather it’s to look forward, and to suggest that our current elite might someday be reformed — or simply replaced — through the imitation of the old establishment’s more pious and aristocratic spirit.

Right now, almost all the discussion of our meritocracy’s vices assumes the system’s basic post-WASP premises, and hopes that either more inclusion (the pro-diversity left’s fixation) or a greater emphasis on academic merit (the anti-affirmative right’s hobbyhorse) will cure our establishment’s all-too-apparent ills.

But nostalgia for what was best about the old establishment might point to a more radical theory of the case, one proposed by Helen Andrews in a 2016 Hedgehog Review essay on meritocracy and its discontents:

The meritocracy is hardening into an aristocracy — so let it. Every society in history has had an elite, and what is an aristocracy but an elite that has put some care into making itself presentable? Allow the social forces that created this aristocracy to continue their work, and embrace the label. By all means this caste should admit as many worthy newcomers as is compatible with their sense of continuity. New brains, like new money, have been necessary to every ruling class, meritocratic or not. If ethnic balance is important to meritocrats, they should engineer it into the system. If geographic diversity strikes them as important, they should ensure that it exists, ideally while keeping an eye on the danger of hoovering up all of the native talent from regional America. But they must give up any illusion that such tinkering will make them representative of the country over which they preside. They are separate, parochial in their values, unique in their responsibilities. That is what makes them aristocratic.

This idea is heresy to our current ruling class; it would have been simple wisdom to the WASPs. If we would learn from their lost successes in our own era of misrule, reconsidering this idea — that a ruling class should acknowledge itself for what it really is, and act accordingly — might be a fruitful place to start.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTOpinion) and Instagram, join the Facebook political discussion group, Voting While Female, and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

Ross Douthat has been an Opinion columnist for The Times since 2009. He is the author of several books, most recently, “To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism.”

Third Circuit: Ban On Religious Bus Ads Violates 1st Amendment

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Northeastern Pennsylvania Freethought Society v. County of Lackawanna Transit System, (3d Cir., Sept. 17, 2019), the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, held that the County of Lackawanna Transit System’s ban on bus advertising that promotes religious views violates the First Amendment.  Plaintiff’s proposed ad that featured the word “Atheists” along with the group’s name and website was rejected under this policy. The majority said in part:

The 2013 policy’s ban on speech related to religion discriminates on the basis of viewpoint. And it is not a permissible limitation on COLTS’s forum, however that forum is characterized.

Judge Cowen dissenting said in part:

I do not believe that the transit system’s policy rises to the level of viewpoint discrimination. As the D.C. Circuit has recently explained, there is a critical difference between the prohibition of religious (and atheistic) perspectives on otherwise permissible subject matters—which constitutes viewpoint discrimination—and the exclusion of religion itself as a subject matter—which does not.

WNEP News reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Texans Sue Under the “Save Chick-fil-A” Law

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

As previously reported, in June Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill which prohibits any governmental entity in Texas from taking adverse action against any person because of the person’s affiliation, contribution or support for a religious organization. The law was aimed at San Antonio’s exclusion of Chick-fil-A from operating at the San Antonio’s airport.  The restaurant chain has been criticized for its contributions to organizations that oppose same-sex marriage. Last week, five Texas residents filed suit in a state trial court under the new law seeking an injunction to prevent the city from continuing to exclude Chick-fil-A from the airport. The complaint (full text) in Von Dohlen v. City of San Antonio, (TX Dist. Ct., filed 9/5/2019), alleges in part:

The law of Texas prohibits governmental entities from taking “adverse action” against corporations based on their contributions to a religious organization. See Texas Gov’t Code § 2400.002. The City of San Antonio is violating this statutory command by excluding Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio airport on account of its donations to Christian organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

20. For years, liberal activists have been attacking Chick-fil-A because it gives money to Christian organizations that accept the Bible as the Word of God.

21. Because these Bible-believing Christian organizations derive their notions of morality from the Bible rather than modern-day cultural fads, they oppose homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage.

San Antonio Family Association issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Suit Challenges North Carolina County’s Refusal To Recognize Marriages Performed By Universal Life Clergy

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

Suit was filed this week in a North Carolina federal district court challenging the refusal by the Cleveland County, North Carolina marriage official to issue marriage licenses to couples whose weddings were performed by Universal Life Church (ULC) ministers. ULC ordains anyone “who feels the call” as a minister. Ordination takes place online for free and credentials are sent to applicants by mail. North Carolina Gen. Stat. §51-1 allows “an ordained minister of any religious denomination to officiate at weddings.  The complaint (full text) in Universal Life Church Monastery Storehouse v. Harnage, (WD NC, filed 8/26/2019), alleges violation of the Establishment, Equal Protection and Free exercise clauses, as well as of Art. VI and of the North Carolina constitution, saying in part:

Defendant’s apparent policy of refusing to recognize the validity of marriages performed by ULC Monastery ministers officially prefers certain religions or religious denominations over ULC Monastery by allowing other religious leaders to solemnize marriages but declining to extend that same benefit to ULC Monastery ministers.

Charlotte Observer reports on the lawsuit.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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