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July 29, 2014  |  About RFP  |  Directions to the Center  |  Subscribe
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Non-Discrimination Executive Order and Religious Freedom

July 22, 2014

On July 21, 2014, President Obama signed an executive order amending two Equal Employment Opportunity clauses, including "gender identity" as a category of unlawful employment discrimination. (Read the full text of the order here.)

Despite the petitions of many religious leaders, faith-based organizations, academics, and legal scholars, the order did not contain any references to religious freedom protections.


Religion and Schools: Continuing Controversy

July 21, 2014

On July 21, 1925, the verdict of The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, better known as the Scopes Monkey Trial, was handed down, which made it unlawful to teach evolution in state-funded schools. Today, nearly ninety years later, the intersection of education and religion still produces many areas of friction. This week, blog contributors considered aspects of both conflict and harmony in church-state relations in the area of education, from prayer in schools to religious and scientific inquiry into the origins of humanity to autonomy in hiring policies for religious institutions.


The Economic Cost of Demolishing Houses of Worship

Brian Grim, July 17, 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was first published on July 14, 2014 on the Weekly Number blog.

As houses of worship, sacred places and other religious properties are demolished by governments worldwide—including the Wenzhou Sanjian Church—authorities might want to consider the economic benefits they are loosing by such actions. For instance, a recent study of 12 houses of worship in just one city (Philadelphia) shows that they annually contribute $52 million in economic benefits and services to the city and its people. And another study shows that religious freedom contributes to economic growth and global competitiveness.


Let’s Work to Reconnect Religious Liberty to the Grand Liberal Tradition

Allen Hertzke, July 11, 2014

For some years, I have noticed troubling signs that many liberals are coming to see religious liberty as a conservative cause, not as a fundamental underpinning of a free society.

The Hobby Lobby decision seems to have accelerated that trend. The Washington Post editorialized that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) should be amended to narrow its scope, which some Democratic Senators appear ready to propose, while prominent legal scholars recommend scrapping the law altogether.


Religious Freedom and Muslim Minorities in the United States

July 7, 2014

In honor of Ramadan, we're exploring the treatment of Muslim minorities in the United States. This week, we asked our contributors to discuss the legal, social, and economic obstacles that American Muslim communities face and to comment on what these challenges mean for the future of religious freedom.


Hobby Lobby: The Ruling and Its Implications for Religious Freedom

July 2, 2014

Ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court decided that companies with religious objections cannot be required to provide health coverage for certain contraceptive services. In this week's conversation, scholars discuss the implications of this decision for religious freedom and explore the wider role of religion in American public life.


Hobby Lobby in the Long Run

Ira Lupu, July 1, 2014
Robert Tuttle

Responding to Hobby Lobby: The Ruling and Its Implications for Religious Freedom

Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in the contraceptive mandate cases, both of us published blog posts that emphasized the potential harm to women’s interests that a religious exemption for Hobby Lobby would cause. (See the previous Cornerstone posts “The Constitutional Costs of Religious Freedom in the Marketplace” and “The Flaws of Individualized Religious Exemptions,” in addition to “Symposium: Religious Questions and Saving Constructions.”) What we perceived as the central legal question has mapped onto the salient political question—whether religious objections to contraception should be allowed to trump women’s interests in access to contraception.


The Links between Religious Freedom and Political Stability

June 23, 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: This week we are revisiting the topic of religious freedom and politics (originally posted April 21) with a piece by Karrie Koesel, another scholar of the political working group.

This blog conversation explores the relationship between religious freedom and political systems. Respondents (who are also political working group members and will help shape our project over the next three years) discuss how citizens and governments benefit from robust religious freedom or, alternatively, suffer under religious restrictions. Additionally, they explore the unique contours of state-church relations, particularly in the United States.


Violent Extremism and Religious Freedom

June 16, 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: Join us as we continue last week's discussion focusing on the threats that non-state actors pose to religious freedom and how societies and governments can respond.

As the recent abductions by Nigeria's Boko Haram and the surge of violence in Iraq have reminded us, non-state groups can threaten religious freedom and other basic human rights at least as much as governments. In this week's conversation, we ask scholars to examine the significant trends in non-state threats to religious freedom and explore the most effective ways that governments and societies can respond.


Hobby Lobby: Potential Arguments from the Bench and their Implications for Religious Freedom

June 9, 2014

The Supreme Court will come to a decision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby by the end of June. Given the oral arguments and what we know about the justices, how is the court likely to reason on the religious freedom aspects of this case?


Shifting Applicability: A History of Judicial Approaches to Free Exercise

Ken Starr, June 2, 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: Join us as we continue a series of posts focusing on the prioritization of religious freedom in American law and culture. This week our discussion focuses on religious freedom in the twentieth century up to the present and is being initiated with this post by Ken Starr.

With few exceptions, the Supreme Court had little experience with the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment in the first century of our nation’s existence. This is, in part, due to the express words of the amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It was not until the 1940s that the Court determined these two clauses should be “incorporated,” or act as limitations on states and not just the federal government. Now the Court would be permitted to reach religious oppression where it was more likely to occur—in the interplay between citizens and their state and local governments. (see Madison’s argument in Federalist 10).


Religious Freedom in Early America: Complicating the Common Narrative

Richard Garnett, May 27, 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: Join us as we continue a series of posts focusing on the prioritization of religious freedom in American law and culture. This week our discussion focuses on religious liberty in America during the nineteenth century and is being initiated with this post by Richard Garnett.

There is, as Prof. Steven Smith observes in his latest book, The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom, a “standard story”—an “oft-told, much beloved story”—of religious freedom in America. This story is, he reports, “not wholly false” and “contains a number of partial truths." At the same time, it is “profoundly misleading.”


The American Founding: Understanding the Connection between Religious and Civil Liberties

Thomas S. Kidd, May 19, 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: Join us as we begin a series of posts focusing on the prioritization of religious freedom in American law and culture. This week our discussion focuses on the American founding and is being initiated with this post by Thomas Kidd.

“Civil and religious liberty” was a ubiquitous phrase among Americans of the Founding era. They did not sharply distinguish between the two.... They did assume, however, that religious liberty was, by its transcendent nature, humanity’s most basic freedom.


Religious Freedom on the College Campus

May 13, 2014

In honor of the thousands of graduating college seniors celebrating commencement across the country this spring, we're exploring the issue of religious freedom on college campuses. Read what faculty members and graduating students have to say about religious liberty at institutions of higher education in general and at Georgetown University specifically by clicking their posts below.


Economic Flourishing: What's Faith Got to Do with It?

May 7, 2014

This week we're asking our associated economics scholars to examine the relationship between religious freedom and economic development. Specifically, we ask if religious repression is linked to underdevelopment and poverty. Respondents also explore the opposite phenomenon, namely, if robust religious freedom leads to economic flourishing and prosperity.


What Is Religious Freedom and Why Is It Important?: Part II

April 14, 2014

We posed this same question to scholars back in late March and got an overwhelming response. This set of responses captures the more personal side of how people define religious freedom and what significance it has in the lives of individuals.


Religious Freedom and the Arts

April 7, 2014

In honor of the Berkley Center's "Courtyard of the Gentiles" events this week, we invited scholars to reflect on the relationship between religious freedom and the arts. We asked scholars how robust religious freedom may promote culture and the arts or how a lack of such freedom can find an outlet in artistic expression.


What Is Religious Freedom and Why Is It Important?

March 31, 2014

Religious freedom has often been referred to as the "first freedom" in America's constitutional order, but some scholars have argued that liberalism requires that religious freedom not be treated as special or unique in the pantheon of human rights. In this post series, scholars and individuals from all different disciplines and faiths try to define religious freedom and to explain why it is a right of particular importance.


Hobby Lobby and the HHS Contraceptive Mandate

March 23, 2014

As the Hobby Lobby case, which challenges the HHS contraceptive mandate as a violation of the free exercise clause, comes before the Supreme Court, we ask what the outcomes may mean for religious freedom, American business, and corporate employees.


Introducing Cornerstone

Thomas Farr, March 22, 2014

Why, you might ask, another blog on religious freedom?

Well, actually, so far as we know there are no other blogs devoted exclusively to the meaning and value of religious freedom.

That deficiency is, to put it mildly, quite odd in light of the global crisis that attends this fundamental and universal right.


Cornerstone is the blog of the Religious Freedom Project (RFP) at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. The Cornerstone blog is the only online platform devoted exclusively to scholarly debate about the meaning and reach of religious liberty. Read more.