TIME Religion

The Most Powerful #YesAllBiblicalWomen Tweets

If the women of the Bible could return to life and speak, here's what they might say about #YesAllWomen

The shooting spree in Santa Barbara, Calif. on Friday–and suspect Elliot Rodger’s manifesto against women that appears to have been behind it–prompted an online conversation critiquing the beliefs society instills in men about women.

But alongside the #YesAllWomen hashtag cropped up another one–#YesAllBiblicalWomen–as people began imagining the way the women of the Bible would contribute to the #YesAllWomen conversation if they could speak today.

Feminist Jewish and Christian theology is a relatively new development in each faith’s history, and many of the women in the Bible, as these tweets suggest, experienced consequences of male entitlement. Here’s a selection of the #YesAllBiblicalWomen tweets, each sharing a Biblical woman’s story, from @AllBibleWomen and others:

 

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Pivots To Take on Scourge of Church Corruption, Child Sexual Abuse

Pope Francis leaves for trip to Holy Land
Pope Francis disembarks a plane at Queen Alia airport in Amman, Jordan upon his arrival for a papal visit on May 24, 2014. L'osservatore Romano/EPA

On a flight back from Holy Land tour, Pope Francis talked to reporters for 45 minutes.

The man never stops.

On the plane back from his three-day trip to the Middle East, Pope Francis held a 45-minute press conference with journalists, and he announced that he will meet with a small group of victims of sexual abuse for the first time in the coming weeks. The church, Francis said, cannot have “Daddy’s boys” who would be exempt from punishment for sexual abuse of minors. “There are no privileges,” he said.

Victims from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Ireland will participate in the meeting. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, one of Francis’ core group of eight advisory cardinals, will also participate. While the meeting is a first for Francis, Pope Benedict XVI met with victims of sexual abuse several times.

Francis also announced that he will visit the Philippines and Sri Lanka in January. He also indicated that future Popes may follow his predecessor’s example and retire. He himself would consider retiring, if that is what he senses God is calling them to do. “I believe Benedict XVI is not an isolated case,” he said.

But amid all the religion-themed news of the flight, coming off of a high-profile and news-packed pilgrimage, there was another significant tidbit that could get lost in the shuffle: Francis confirmed that the Vatican is investigating charges that $20 million went missing from the Vatican bank during Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s watch. Bertone, Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, stepped down in October when Francis replaced him with Archbishop Pietro Parolin. “It’s something being studied, it’s not clear,” Francis said, when asked about the investigation of missing funds. “Maybe it’s the truth, but at this moment it’s not definitive.”

It is a reminder that Francis still faces the substantial task of reforming the Vatican’s scandal-plagued financial system. He has been making some progress. Last August, he issued a statement against money laundering. In February, he established a new Secretariat of the Economy and appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell to lead it. He also created a 15-member council of lay financial experts and Catholic prelates to guide policy and oversee audits at any time. Over the last year, the Vatican bank, under the leadership of Ernst von Freyberg and formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, has closed hundreds of accounts.

Even for a smooth operator like Pope Francis, it takes time to turn an operation as giant and unwieldy as the Vatican around.

TIME Religion

Pope Corrects Israeli Leader: Actually, Jesus Did Not Speak Hebrew

The Pontiff set Benjamin Netanyahu straight on Jesus' language

Oops.

One minute into Benjamin Netanyahu’s sit down with Pope Francis on Monday, the Israeli prime minster found himself eating his words—words about Jesus, no less.

“Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew,” Netanyahu said, discussing the strong connection between Judaism and Christianity.

Pope Francis looked up and slightly pointed his finger. “Aramaic,” he corrected.

Netanyahu quickly recovered: “He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew.”

The correction was gentle, even playful—typical Pope Francis style. Everyone smiled and laughed.

 

 

TIME Religion

Buckle Up, People: The Pope’s Brilliant Move

Pope Francis is proving himself to be one of the most powerful leaders in the world.

On Sunday, he arrived in Bethlehem and made an unexpected stop that surprised everyone: en route to mass in Manger Square, he halted the popemobile and caused a chaotic flurry of press, security, and onlookers as he walked over to the wall that separates Israel from the West Bank. Beneath the graffiti scrawled “Bethlehem,” he reached out, placed his hand on the wall, and prayed.

Only a Holy Father like Francis could pull off this kind of stunt. One small gesture, and the Israeli military in the watchtower above and the Palestinian people below were all at his mercy. He rendered all sides powerless by drawing them into his service, the most counterintuitive service of prayer.

To top it all off, during his sermon at mass, Francis made a historic invitation: “In this place where the Prince of Peace was born, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, and President Shimon Peres, to raise together with me an intense prayer to God for the gift of peace. And I offer my house in the Vatican to host you in this encounter of prayer.”

Within an hour, both leaders had accepted his invitation. What were they going to say, no?

The brilliance in this move goes something like this:

“Hey Peres, I’m in Bethlehem, preaching not in Jerusalem but in Palestinian territory, which happens to be where Jesus who founded my church was born, and don’t forget, I’m about to come to Israel to lay a wreath on the founder of Zionism’s grave. Hey Abbas, I’m visiting Palestine first, before I’m visiting Israel, and I just prayed at the wall, so all eyes are on you right now. I’m going to take this opportunity to invite you both, via my sermon, to come pray with me in the Vatican. And because I just made this historic invitation public, you pretty much are going to have to show up. Also, because Peres’ term expires in two months, this needs to happen ASAP. See you soon!!”

Wink, smile, drop the mic.

This is a pope who understands the power of his position, and knows how to wield it with disarming humility. Buckle up, people. We’re only fourteen months in to his papacy. This is already fun.

TIME Religion

Naim Ateek: What A Palestinian Liberation Theologian Wants from Pope Francis

If Pope Francis would just talk about the occupation, it would show his courage and prophetic stance.

Palestinians weigh heavily on Naim Ateek’s mind as he prepares for Pope Francis’ visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem this weekend.

Ateek, an Anglican priest, is the founder of Palestinian liberation theology, a movement that for three decades has identified Palestinian occupation with Jesus’ suffering and response to injustice. Ateek’s 1989 book, Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation, is the movement’s foundational work, and he runs the Sabeel Ecumenical Center in Jerusalem and in Nazareth. Sabeel in Arabic means “the way,” or “spring of life-giving water.”

Pope Francis is stepping into a religious and political minefield, Ateek says, like anyone else who visits the region. But because he is the Pope, he has an opportunity to spotlight the Palestinian people in a way that other world leaders cannot.

“We feel he has been able to speak about the poor in Latin America,” Ateek says. “Now we would like to see him speak about the oppressed in Palestine.”

Ateek is watching the Pope closely, and whatever he says will be a sort of litmus test for Palestinians like him to see if Francis truly means the ethics he has been emphasizing in his young papacy—mercy, compassion and humility. Francis has also been stressing moral courage even when it is an unpopular choice, and Ateek hopes to see him display that courage this weekend.

“I would hope that the Pope will show great courage to speak against the injustice of the Palestinians, that he will speak against the occupation,” Ateek says. “I mean if he will just talk about the occupation, it will reflect the prophetic stance.”

Francis has so far carefully navigated the region’s divisions. He is taking great care to not cross any borders that are not internationally recognized. He’s taking a helicopter from Amman to Bethlehem, then another helicopter from Bethlehem to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv to officially enter Israel. “That is a good message that he is sending,” Ateek says. “We are appreciative.”

Another test will come on Monday, when Francis is scheduled to lay a wreath at the grave of Theodor Herzl, the man considered the founder of Zionism. “Since he has chosen to do this, I wonder, what is the message he is going to balance it out with when he is speaking about the Palestinians?” Ateek asks. “Maybe he has done this in order to balance things out. If that is the case, that’s fine, but if he goes to Herzl but does not condemn all the injustices and oppression of the people, of the Palestinians, then that is going to be a missed opportunity.”

TIME Religion

Ted Cruz’s Father: “The Bible Tells You Exactly Who To Vote For”

Rafael Cruz
Rafael Cruz speaks during a tea party gathering on Jan. 10, 2014, in Madisonville, Texas. Pat Sullivan—AP

At a conference for pastors, Rafael Cruz explains the biblical prescription for the ballot box

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, Rev. Rafael Cruz, has voting advice for Christians nationwide who find themselves unable to decide at the ballot box.

“Let me shock you a little bit,” he said Thursday in Washington, D.C. “Did you know that the Bible tells you exactly who to vote for?”

He made the claim at the Family Research Council’s annual Watchmen on the Wall briefing, where Cruz counseled some 600 pastors and church representatives that it is time to put Judeo-Christian leaders with Biblical morals in office. In the last election, by Cruz’s calculation, 48 million evangelical Christians did not vote. “If the righteous do not run for office, if the righteous are not even voting. . . that leaves the wicked electing the wicked,” he says. “We get what we deserve.”

The Bible, Cruz went on to explain, tells you exactly how to vet a politician. He turned to Exodus 18:21 and made his case. Moses is in the wilderness trying to govern the Israelites, where his father-in-law gives him leadership advice: “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, ruler of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.”

Then Cruz broke down the specifics:

1. Able men. “And women of course,” Cruz added. “That means elect someone who is capable of doing the job—don’t elect the village idiot!”

2. Fearing God. “That means you follow a Judeo-Christian ethic,” he explained. “It is a moral code by which you live. . . honesty, integrity, individual responsibility, hard work, the rule of law, and yes, limited government and free enterprise.”

3. Men of truth. “Haven’t we had enough men and women of lies in government?” he asked, to the audience’s applause. “Look at what has been happening with this administration: they would tell you a lie to cover up the previous lie. And it’s lies after lies after lies and we see scandal after scandal,” he added, referencing the recent Veterans Affairs situation.

4. Hating covetousness. “Covetousness in government doesn’t have to do so much about money as it has to do with power and control,” he said. “These politicians covet power and they covet the control that that power gives them over your lives and mind.”

5. Rulers of thousands, ruler of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. “That’s equivalent to federal government, state government, county government, local government. . . . That’s Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution, that’s the 9th Amendment, and that’s the 10th Amendment,” Cruz explained. “If it isn’t there [in Article 1 Section 8], the federal government’s got no business being involved.” He gave two examples: education—“Does it make sense that some unelected bureaucrats in Washington DC would tell us how to educate our children and our grandchildren? Absolutely not.”—and environment—“The EPA is the single most agency for thwarting economic growth in this country.” The crowd, again, erupted into applause.

Pastors, Cruz concluded, should set up voter registration tables in their lobbies every Sunday, preach sermons about Christian issues, provide voter guides to congregants and encourage churchgoers to vote for candidates with Biblical values.

Cruz’s son, Ted, is eying a 2016 presidential run. One has to wonder: will Ted, like Moses, listen to a father’s advice?

 

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Visits Jordan, Israel, Palestine: Expect the Unexpected

Pope Francis
Pope Francis Leads his General weekly Audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on May 21, 2014. Alessandra Benedetti—Corbis

In a region where politics and religion have been enmeshed for centuries, the Pope's simplest actions will carry both spiritual and social weight. It will be the first time that an official papal delegation will include members of other faiths—an imam and a rabbi

Pope Francis hasn’t even left for his weekend tour of the Holy Land and his trip is already breaking with tradition.

He won’t use a bulletproof car, unlike most every head of state to visit the region, opting instead for an open-top vehicle. He has invited an imam and a rabbi to travel with him—the first time an official papal delegation has included members of other faiths; Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, a leader of Argentina’s Islamic community, are the Pope’s longtime friends from Argentina. He’s also emphasizing that his trip is a pilgrimage with a “strictly religious” purpose, as he said in his general audience on Wednesday.

Pope Francis is also packing an enormous amount into a short weekend: three regions in three days, and at least 13 speeches or homilies.

On Saturday, he flies to Amman, Jordan, where he will meet King Abdullah II, whom he has already met with twice at the Vatican, celebrate mass at the International Stadium, visit the site of Jesus’ baptism, and meet with refugees. Sunday morning he will helicopter to Bethlehem in the West Bank. There he will meet with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, whom he met in Rome last October, and then celebrate mass in Manger Square, tour the Church of the Nativity that marks Christ’s birthplace, and meet with children from the refugee camps of Deheisheh, Aida, and Beit Jibrin.

Sunday evening he will head to Jerusalem and meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. On Monday, he will visit the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, and Yad Vashem. He will spend time with the two Chief Rabbis, and with Israel’s president Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. To wrap it all up, he will meet with men and women religious in the church of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, celebrate mass one more time, and then depart for Rome at 8 p.m.

The rigorous schedule aside, the trip’s unexpected and symbolic moments may be the most significant. The Holy Father has made it clear that, in all things, the church must affirm mercy, and no doubt that theme will emerge again this weekend. Francis is a canny operator, aware that saying mass at the island of Lampedusa indicates that the Vatican stands with the immigrant, or that washing the feet of Muslim women pushes the church towards humility. This trip’s immediate focus may not be political, but in a region where politics and religion have been enmeshed for centuries, it is hard to imagine that even his simplest actions—where he celebrates mass, for whom he prays, and what or whom he blesses—will not carry both spiritual and social weight.

Anticipation for what is to come, both planned and unexpected, is running high. Jordan has a website, far more sophisticated than the Vatican’s, dedicated solely to the less-than-24-hours visit. Israel has assigned an extra 8,000 officers to security detail in Jerusalem. For now, however, Francis has asked people worldwide to simply pray. He has two prayer requests: one, for his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who represents the Eastern churches, and two, for peace in the region. The land, as he said in his Wednesday audience, “has suffered greatly.”

TIME Religion

For Pope Francis, It’s About More than Martians

Vatican Pope
Pope Francis blesses faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the end of the weekly general audience, at the Vatican on May 14, 2014. Gregorio Borgia—AP

On Monday morning, Pope Francis preached that he would baptize Martians. He caused, yet again, quite a stir. But to think he was talking just about aliens is to miss his main point. Pope Francis was using Martians to illustrate that the church must be open to whatever, or whoever, may seem socially foreign and unaccepted.

Pope Francis brought up Martians as he was preaching about a specific New Testament story: early Christians were wondering if Jews and Gentiles could associate, and God gave the Apostle Peter a vision that salvation extended beyond the deepest cultural divides. It was a moment of internal crisis for the early church. “That was unthinkable,” Francis explained. And, to show just how unthinkable it was, he added: “If—for example—tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here…Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them…And one says, ‘But I want to be baptized!’ What would happen?”

The church today should learn from the early church, Francis explained, that it cannot close its doors to anyone. That which God has purified, as the Scripture says, no one can call profane. “It was never the ministry of the closed door, never,” Francis explained.

It is a poignant message about not withholding baptism, especially given the Pope’s previous comments that churches should not refuse baptism to children of unmarried parents. Francis is even thought to have called an unwed mother himself and told her that he would baptize her child himself if she could not find a priest to do it.

It is also a pointed reference to the church’s efforts to welcome immigrants. ‘Alien,’ ‘stranger,’ and ‘immigrant’ are often translated interchangeably in Biblical texts. One passage from the book Deuteronomy has become the crux of Catholic teaching on welcoming the immigrant: “Show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” While Francis did not reference immigration as specifically as baptism in his sermon, the connection cannot be not far from his mind. Pope Francis urged compassion for the immigrant in his first papal trip to the island of Lampedusa, where hundreds of people have died trying to immigrate from Africa to Europe. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also often uses the alien language in its push for immigration reform on Capitol Hill and in its refugee programs.

Did Francis have a message about actual beings from other planets? Possibly. The idea of baptizing aliens is actually nothing new for the Vatican. The Vatican’s chief astronomer, Argentine Jesuit father José Funes, explained the possibility of extraterrestrial life in 2008, when he too said that God’s mercy could be offered to aliens if it were needed. He even cited Pope Francis’ namesake to make his point. “This is not in contrast with the faith, because we cannot place limits on the creative freedom of God,” Funes said. “To use St. Francis’ words, if we consider earthly creatures as ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters,’ why can’t we also speak of an ‘extraterrestrial brother?’”

The Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences held its first major conference on astrobiology in 2009. For five days, thirty scientists gave presentations to Catholic bishops on everything from microbes to planetary detection to life beyond Earth. Rome has come a long way from 16th century, when Dominican friar and astronomer Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake during the Inquisition for heresy, including his openness to multiple worlds.

Pope Francis, like any good preacher, knows how to keep his audience interested—nothing like a Martian reference to catch people’s attention. Whether or not they will remember it for the right reasons is another question.

TIME Religion

Why One In Four U.S. Latinos Now Identify As Former Catholics

Cover Photograph by Marco Grob for TIME

Community outreach by evangelical and pentecostal churches has pulled the U.S. Latino population away from its Catholic heritage.

Last year I wrote a cover story for TIME called “The Latino Reformation” about the remarkable growth of Latino evangelical communities in the United States. At the time, very few organizations had been able to track the data behind the growth, and so I spent six months reporting out the shift. On Wednesday morning, the Pew Research Center released a new report on exactly this change, “The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States.”

Pew’s findings are groundbreaking, but not surprising for anyone following the community closely. The 182-page report finds that nearly one-in-four Latinos in the U.S. are former Catholics. That is a much higher than the general U.S. Catholicism departure rate: only one-in-ten adults in the U.S. population as a whole have left Catholicism, according to a previous Pew study. In the last four years, the Catholic share of Latinos has dropped from 67% to 55%, while the evangelical share of Latinos has grown from 12% to 16%. The unaffiliated share of Latinos has grown even more, from 10% to 18%. Even as the Catholic share of Latinos is shrinking, the Latino share of Catholics in the country continues to rise as the Latino population in the U.S. continues to grow.

Latinos are joining Protestant churches, the report confirms, for socio-economic reason and not just religious ones. Half of Protestant converts say they left their childhood religion because evangelical churches reach out and help their members more. (Note: “Protestant” in most Latino communities tends to be synonymous with both evangelical and Pentecostal charismatic—Latino communities in the mainline Protestant churches are much smaller by comparison.) The social service priority of these congregations is significant draw. Evangelical Latino churches often act as a social safety network for their members, especially when it comes to basic needs like food, clothing, and health care.

Pentecostalism, and related “spirit-filled” movements, also continue to be highly popular in Latino communities. Hispanic Protestants have high personal experiences of divine healing, direct revelation from God, and witnessing spirits or the devil being driven out of someone. Even 52% of Hispanic Catholics describe themselves as charismatic.

The findings continue to support the theory that the GOP may have an opening in the Latino evangelical community. While Hispanics as a whole lean heavily Democrat, evangelical Latinos have the largest share who identify as Republican, and by almost 10 percentage points more than Latino Catholics. Latino evangelicals—regardless of party affiliation—also tend to be overwhelmingly conservative. More than two-thirds oppose gay marriage, compared to only a third of Catholic Latinos and just 16% of unaffiliated. They oppose abortion by similar margins, even though more Catholic and unaffiliated Latinos oppose abortion than do gay marriage. More than 60% of evangelical Latinos say that churches should expresses views of political and social issues, more than 12% higher than Catholic Latinos and 21% higher than the general public who believe the same.

The growth in the unaffiliated group that the report documents is also worth a deep dive. The divide between men and women here is particularly stark: 59% of unaffiliated Latinos are men, versus just 41% of women. Unaffiliated Latinos are growing most among young people. The growth in the last four years in that sector is up 17 points, far more than growth in other demographic groups in the survey. The biggest religious switching for U.S. born Latinos is movement into the unaffiliated group, with a net gain of 17%. Catholics, by contrast, have a net loss of 25% among the U.S. born.

The report also contains new data on Jehovah’s Witnesses, which represent just 1% of the U.S. adult population but 2% of the Hispanics, as well as Latino views of Pope Francis (predictably high approval), and specific religious practices of Latinos by country of origin. The full report is available at: http://www.pewforum.org/2014/05/07/the-shifting-religious-identity-of-latinos-in-the-united-states

TIME Religion

Supreme Court Decision On Official Prayer Will Not End Public Debate

Greece Galloway Supreme Court
Protesters hold signs outside of the Supreme Court as the court was hearing arguments in Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway, on the question of the separation of church and state - specifically, the practice of a minister delivering an opening prayer at town council meetings on November 6, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Douglas Graham—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

This post was updated at 3:54pm to include additional quotes.

The Supreme Court’s decision Monday to approve of explicit ceremonial Christian prayer before government meetings will not bring any truce in the ongoing legal and political battle over the proper role of religion in American public life.

Shortly after the ruling came down, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted its disappointment—“Official religious favoritism should be off-limits under the Constitution”—while conservative Christian leaders from Russell Moore to Ralph Reed praised the decision as a First Amendment victory. “The court has rejected the idea that as citizens we must check our faith at the entrance to the public square,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, says. “This welcome decision is very helpful in putting the brakes on the efforts of militant secularists to rid the public square of any religious expression.”

Today’s Town of Greece v. Galloway case began brewing in 2007, when two residents from town of Greece, near Rochester, NY, complained that the town’s monthly council meetings regularly opened with Christian invocation. The plaintiffs, one Jewish and one atheist, argued that the prayers constituted an establishment of religion by the government, and sued the town in federal court. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last May, and the Obama administration surprised many people last August when it filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the town. The U.S. solicitor general argued that the U.S. Constitution allowed for sectarian prayer as long as the prayer did not proselytize or disparage another faith.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty called Monday’s ruling a “great victory” for religious freedom. “Prayers like these have been taking place in our nation’s legislatures for over 200 years,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Town of Greece case. “They demonstrate our nation’s religious diversity, and highlight the fact that religion is a fundamental aspect of human culture.”

Penny Nance, president of the Concerned Women for America, also applauded the ruling. “Everyone wins, including the staunchest atheists, when we allow the free exercise of religion or non-religion according to a person’s conscience,” she said in a statement. Russell Moore wrote that the Supreme Court didn’t violate the separation between between church and state, but upheld it. “Maybe this is a sign of a better way forward, toward a right kind of free marketplace of faith expression in American life,” he said. “Let’s pray that it is.”

But the losing plaintiffs also have some religious leaders on their side. Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, stood against Monday’s ruling and may be allies for the opposition as the fight continues. “If there is any positive side in this disturbing decision it is that the court makes clear that if ‘the invocations denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion…That circumstance would present a different case than the one presently before the Court,'” Gaddy said. “The distinction is a difficult one to make and one I expect will cause the courts to revisit the issue soon.” In a separate statement, Saperstein said, “Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that requiring invocations be nonsectarian would call on the legislatures sponsoring these prayers and the courts to intervene and ‘act as supervisors and censors of religious speech.’ Yet, Justice Kennedy did suggest there were limits to such prayers, among them: denigrating non-believers or religious minorities, threatening damnation, or preaching conversion—leaving courts in exactly the same role as line-drawers.”

Openly Secular, a coalition whose mission is to increase acceptance of atheists, agnostics, and other seculars, was also disappointed with the ruling. “The court’s conservative majority is moving the country away from the founders’ vision of a nation committed to the separation between church and state,” Robyn Blumner, the group’s project director, said in a statement. “The practical consequence will be more official prayer, overwhelmingly Christian—clearly communicating to all Americans whose faith holds the power and whose beliefs don’t count.”

It is hard to hear responses like Perkins’ and Rassbach’s without remembering that the Supreme Court is expected to rule on another religious freedom case this summer: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The Becket Fund is also defending the Green family, the owners of Hobby Lobby, in that case. For Rassbach, the Green family is asking the Courts to recognize religion as a fundamental aspect of human life in Hobby Lobby just as it did on Monday. “In Town of Greece, the Supreme Court has affirmed that religion is not a vaguely shameful thing that must be confined to private life,” he explains. “In Hobby Lobby, however, the government argues precisely the opposite. It says religious people are entitled to hold their beliefs in private; but once they create a business, they must check their religious beliefs at the door—on pain of multi-million dollar fines.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser