Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Top Church-State and Religious Liberty Developments of 2017

Each year in December, I attempt to pick the most important church-state and religious liberty developments of the past year-- including developments internationally in the mix.  Usually I select the top ten, but this year I have expanded it to 11. The selection obviously involves a good deal of subjective judgment, and I welcome e-mail comment from those who disagree with my choices.  So here are my Top Eleven picks for the rather chaotic year that is currently coming to an end:
1.  President Trump issues and reissues restrictions on immigration and entry of refugees which are challenged in the courts as "Muslim bans."
2. Supreme Court's Trinity Lutheran Church decision opens the possibility of expanded governmental aid to religious institutions.
3. Christian Evangelicals remain core supporters of Donald Trump.
4. Trump Administration expands religious and moral exemptions from ACA contraceptive coverage mandate; court challenges filed.
5. The Masterpiece Cakeshop case attracts over 90 amicus briefs as it is argued before the Supreme Court.  The Christian baker's refusal to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple becomes a symbol of the cultural clash between ideals of religious freedom and equality, even though arguments focus on free speech issues.
6. Congress fails to repeal the Johnson Amendment, despite promises by President Trump.
7. Transgender discrimination and transgender service in the military remain high profile religious and cultural issues in the courts and in the political arena.
8. The Alt-Right march in Charlottesville reveals resurgence of traditional forms of  anti-Semitism.
9. Supreme Court's decision in Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton saves retirement plans of religiously affiliated health care networks from unanticipated and costly ERISA coverage.
10. In Israel, government's suspension of an agreement with Judaism's Reform and Conservative movements to construct a separate prayer space at the Western Wall for egalitarian prayer opens a rift with a large segment of the American Jewish community.
11. India's Supreme Court invalidates Triple Talaq marriage for Muslims in India.
For top picks by other observers of the legal and religious scene, see Don Byrd's Top Ten Religious Liberty Stories, and  Religion News Association's Top 10 Religion Stories of the Year Poll.