Thursday, December 26, 2019

Top 10 Religious Liberty and Church State Developments of 2019

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.  My choices are based on the importance of the pick to law or policy, regardless of whether the development has garnered significant media attention. This year has been a particularly active one, and 2020 promises to be even more eventful.  The selection of top stories 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 Ten picks as another year comes to an end:
  1. The ongoing battle over abortion rights, including the Supreme Court's action on Indiana's abortion law in Box v. Planned Parenthood, and Justice Thomas opinion focusing on abortion as eugenics; Supreme Court's granting of certiorari on Louisiana's abortion law; increasingly restrictive enactments by various states; and challenges to new HHS health care conscience rules.
  2. Supreme Court's decision in American Legion v. American Humanist Society clarifying when religious-themed monuments on public property may remain.
  3. Controversies over transgender rights, including Supreme Court's grant of review in cases on Title VII protections for LGBT employees, and DOD's amended policy on transgender service in the military.
  4. Growth of anti-Semitism and governmental efforts to combat it, including controversial interpretation of Title VI.
  5. Litigation and rule-making over whether adoption and foster care agencies receiving government funding can refuse to place children with same-sex couples.
  6. Elimination of religious exemptions to vaccination requirements in wake of measles outbreaks, especially in New York.
  7.  Supreme Court weighs in on inmates' access to chaplains during execution.
  8. Extensions of statutes of limitations lead to flood of clergy abuse cases.
  9. 7th Circuit upholds tax code's parsonage allowance.
  10. India's courts and Parliament make major rulings that infringe on religious autonomy: Hindu Marriage Act covers transgender marriage; Parliament outlaws triple talaq; court bans animal sacrifice; power of ecclesiastical courts reduced; disputed holy site awarded to Hindus.
For other opinions on 2019's top stories, see the lists from Don Byrd at BJC, and from from the Religion News Association.