Anti-Semitism on the Rise in Europe and Yoga in Schools: This Week in Religion
ICYMI, here's your cheat sheet for this week in religion: In Los Angeles, some parents are appealing a court ruling allowing yoga in public schools. They allege that it's not just an exercise, but a form of religious practice that has no place in state schools. “Our children are not religious guinea pigs and should never be subjected to such misguided religious experimentation,” said Dean Broyles, president of the National Center for Law and Policy. To be fair, anyone who's been to a yoga class knows chair pose is the devil's work.
Jews say that anti-semitism is on the rise in Europe. A poll found that nearly a third of all European Jewry have considered emigrating because they do not feel safe.
The White House celebrated Diwali this week, and FLOTUS Michelle Obama explained that the Obamas' reason for doing so is to make the White House a house for all people of all faiths.
Billy Graham, arguably America's best-known pastor, celebrated his 95th birthday this week. Guests included Donald Trump and failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
The Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in the case of Greece v. Galloway this week, which concerns a New York town's right to start legislative meetings with Christian prayers. As we explained:
The case, Greece v. Galloway , concerns a suburb of Rochester, New York in which town legislative sessions began, for many years, with prayers — exclusively by Christian clergy members. Two of the town’s residents — one of whom is an atheist — challenged the practice, bringing the latest showdown over the Constitution’s complicated establishment clause to the Supreme Court.
Some say the ruling for Greece v. Galloway is already predetermined by a case decided decades ago, when the court ruled in Marsh v. Chambers that Nebraska didn’t violate the establishment clause by employing a Presbyterian minister for its own legislature. In that case, the court referred back to the long history of the chaplain’s role in the state legislature. But in Greece, the tradition only started in 1999; before that, town meetings opened with a moment of silence.
Irish prime minister Enda Kenny — a devout Catholic — endorsed same-sex marriage this week and promised that the country would vote on the issue in a referendum. Kenny's announcement angered local Catholic authorities, who have already been upset with the Irish leader over his loosening of abortion restrictions.
Buzzfeed announced the end of "the Mormon moment," after a period of heavy scrutiny for the church. Between a Mormon presidential candidate, the Book of Mormon on Broadway, and a controversy with openly gay boy scouts and troop leaders, the church's phones were ringing all the time. Now, "[t]he phone rings a little less often than it used to at the public affairs office of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Also, Big Love was cancelled.
Foreign Policy looks at how Saudi Arabia is turning to training rebel forces in Syria, with the conflict between the two countries fueled in part by sectarian tensions.
The ramped up Saudi effort has been spurred by the kingdom's disillusionment with the United States. A Saudi insider with knowledge of the program described how Riyadh had determined to move ahead with its plans after coming to the conclusion that President Barack Obama was simply not prepared to move aggressively to oust Assad. "We didn't know if the Americans would give [support] or not, but nothing ever came through," the source said. "Now we know the president just didn't want it."
Leslie Griffin at Religion & Politics wonders how former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor would have impacted the court's cases this term on religion. O'Connor was frequently a swing vote on the court before she retired to spend time with her ailing husband.
During Justice O’Connor’s tenure, the Court decided many Establishment Clause challenges to government-sponsored prayer and public displays of religious symbols. In 1983, she voted with the majority in Marsh v. Chambers to uphold the constitutionality of a state-paid Nebraska chaplain’s offering prayers at the beginning of each legislative session. The Court reasoned that legislative prayer was a historical practice accepted by the first Congress, who understood (better than we do) what was constitutional. The following year, in Lynch v. Donnelly, O’Connor provided the fifth vote to uphold the constitutionality of a Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Christmas display that included a nativity scene surrounded by Santa Claus, a Christmas tree, and a banner reading Seasons Greetings.