Marie Griffith

WashU Expert: Papal attack plays on longstanding fears of white Protestants

While it may seem bizarre for an American presidential candidate to describe the comments of a sitting pope as “disgraceful,” Donald Trump’s recent attacks on Pope Francis should come as no surprise from a candidate whose success hinges on playing to the fears of religiously inspired voters, suggests an expert on evangelical politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

Lieberman, Danforth to discuss role of religion in politics Dec. 9

Former U.S. senators John C. Danforth and Joe Lieberman will discuss “The Role of Religion in America’s Broken Politics” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9, in Graham Chapel at Washington University in St. Louis. The event is sponsored by the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics as part of the Danforth Distinguished Lecture Series and is free and open to the public.

New SCOTUS brief argues Hobby Lobby’s request is unconstitutional

​The popular arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby is seeking a religious exemption from covering certain forms of contraception it would be required to provide under the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act. The case is headed to the Supreme Court, with oral arguments set to begin this spring. “Granting the exemption would shift the cost of accommodating Hobby Lobby’s religious exercise to employees who do not share its beliefs,” argues Elizabeth Sepper, JD, associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “Such cost-shifting violates the Establishment Clause.” Sepper is one of several experts who have authored an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court arguing the unconstitutionality of Hobby Lobby’s request.

SCOTUS preview: First Amendment expert on legislative prayer and the “mistakes of the past, present and future”​​

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this spring on whether prayers before town hall meetings violate the First Amendment clause that prohibits the establishment of religion. John Inazu, a First Amendment expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, highlights one dimension of the litigation often unaddressed by commentators: what he calls the “mistakes of the past, present and future” adopted by proponents of legislative prayer.

Religious holiday displays – three wise men and a heap of legal troubles

The upcoming holiday season brings with it the annual gaze upon religious displays — and the legal issues that come with them. “The Supreme Court’s approach to public religious displays under the Establishment Clause has been less than clear,” says John Inazu, JD, expert on religion and the constitution and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.“Some commentators have described it as the ‘three plastic animals rule’ –a Christian nativity scene on public property passes muster if it is accompanied by a sufficient combination of Rudolph, Frosty, and their friends.” Inazu says that future litigation will likely press against this line-drawing, but even apparent victories for religious liberty may come at a significant cost.

Religion and the Constitution expert discusses Pulpit Freedom Sunday

The annual celebration of Pulpit Freedom Sunday on Oct. 7 encourages pastors to preach politics from the pulpit. The Internal Revenue Code exempts certain organizations including churches from taxation, but prohibits them as a condition of tax-exemption from “any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” “Both the restriction and Pulpit Freedom Sunday raise important questions about the relationship between church and state, the role of religious argument in political discourse, and the significance of clergy in political debate,” says John Inazu, JD, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and expert on religion and the Constitution.
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