Sunday, December 26, 2021

Top 10 Religious Liberty and Church-State Developments Of 2021

Each year in December, I attempt to pick the most important church-state and religious liberty developments of the past year.  My choices are based on the importance of the pick to law or policy, regardless of whether the development has garnered significant media attention. The selection of top stories obviously involves a good deal of subjective judgment.  This year many developments were interrelated, so deciding what counts as a separate development was a challenge.  I welcome e-mail comment from those who disagree with my selection of top stories.  Here are my Top Ten picks:

1. A flood of court decisions on religious freedom challenges to COVID-19 restrictions on worship services, followed by state measures to prevent future governmental closing down of church services

2. Supreme Court refuses to enjoin Texas heartbeat abortion law pending appeal, while allowing challenges to the unique law to proceed in lower courts.

3. Extensive challenges to the absence of religious exemptions in COVID vaccine mandates.

4. Supreme Court's increased use of its "shadow docket" to render important decisions.

5. Biden Administration reasserts bans on discrimination against transgender and gay individuals, while treatment of transgender individuals in athletic competitions and in classrooms by teachers who refuse to recognize their gender identity become important issues

6. Supreme Court in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia holds unanimously that Philadelphia has violated the free exercise rights of Catholic Social Services by refusing to contract it to provide foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents. 

7. Congress and President take action against China over Uyghur genocide.

8. The United States returns as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

9. Supreme Court rules on rights of chaplains to be in execution chambers.

10. U.S. bishops back down on denial of communion to President Biden over his views on abortion after Pope supports Biden.