Whose Religious Freedom?

The above headline comes from a recent online article at Slate, detailing how current court interpretation of the US’s 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) have resulted in a situation in which claims of religious freedom are increasingly enabling people to sidestep laws that yet others have long taken for granted.

Most recently it involves the following case (quoting from the article): Continue reading

The Long Argument Over Religious Freedom

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One of the major themes in my REL 241: American Religious History course this semester has been “religious liberty.” What our class has seen over and over again is that religious freedom isn’t really about religion or freedom. More often, arguments over “religious liberty,” “religious freedom,” or “freedom of conscience” are really arguments about governance, structures, and the individual. Continue reading

The Effects of “Bad Religion”

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is now working on her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

Many of you may be following, or at least aware of, Rowan, KY county clerk Kim Davis denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the recent Supreme Court ruling (on June 26, 2015) that legalized same-sex marriage across the United States. In the days following Davis’s refusal to cooperate, I have seen a lot of “bad religion” claims being made on social media and news media sites — i.e., claims by some that she exhibits an improper or inauthentically religious position. It has also since come out in the press that Davis has been married four times and had an affair with one man whom she eventually married. So what strikes me as interesting are the types of reactions and articles I have seen while scrolling through Facebook, seeking to invalidate her: she’s a hypocrite, she’s playing fast and loose with the Bible, her “personal beliefs” are infringing on others’, as a divorcée and adulterer she has no moral high ground — the list goes on. Continue reading

Embedded in Religion

Rigoberta_Menchu_2009_croppedWhat ideological positions are embedded within the practices and conceptions that we commonly identify as religions? Depending on one’s own ideological position and perspective, various people emphasize the patriarchy, ethnocentrism, and violence within various examples of religion. People will certainly debate if those ideological positions are typical in expressions of religion or an accretion to some idealized form. What about common definitions of what counts as religion? What ideological positions are embedded there? In classes I often emphasize the ways that claiming “religion” becomes a way to establish special status for particular conceptions, symbols, or actions. You cannot use that image because it is religious. You cannot prohibit this action because it is religious. So, what counts as religious in a society makes a big difference. But our analysis should also extend to broader implications of definitions of religion and the ideological assumptions that they support. Continue reading

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

RNS-STEVE-GREEN fAre you following the case in the U.S. that’s now being argued before the Supreme Court, on whether a corporation has religious freedom protections? It involves a chain of over 600 craft supply stores, in 47 states, and whether, under the new health care law (commonly known as “Obamacare”), it is required by the federal government to pay for certain forms of birth control that the owners of the corporation claim their religious beliefs lead them to understand as abortion. Continue reading