Mark David Hall is Herbert Hoover Professor of Politics and Faculty Fellow in the William Penn Honors Program at George Fox University. Hall has been at George Fox since 2001. He received a BA in political science from Wheaton College and a PhD in political science from the University of Virginia.
He has also written more than 50 journal articles, book chapters, reviews and sundry pieces. He is currently co-editing Great Christian Jurists In American History (Cambridge University Press) and co-authoring a book tentatively titled America’s “Godless” Constitution, Deist Founders, and other Myths About Religion and the American Founding.
Mark also serves as a Senior Fellow at Baylor University’s Institute for the Studies of Religion.
When a disaster like Hurricane Harvey strikes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) swoops in to provide assistance. Like many readers of Learn Liberty, I get nervous when someone says, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”When the government makes a benefit generally available, it cannot discriminate against religious citizens or institutions. However, according to attorneys from Becket, a public interest law firm, FEMA does exactly that. When the government makes a benefit generally available, it cannot discriminate against religious citizens or institutions.FEMA’s
This article contains stories of abuse that may be disturbing for some readers.For the first time, the federal government is prosecuting a case of female genital mutilation (FGM). Six people in Michigan — including two doctors, two assistants, and the girls’ mothers — have been charged with participating in the mutilation of two seven-year-old girls. The doctors and families of the children are members of the Dawoodi Bohras, a community from West India that practices FGM for religious reasons.Citizens should generally be permitted to act upon their sincerely held religious beliefs, even if
Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, by John Corvino, Ryan T. Anderson, and Sherif Girgis, Oxford University Press, 352 pages, $21.95 Steve Tennes, an orchard owner in Michigan, recently refused to host a same-sex wedding on his property, instead referring the couple to another orchard. Business owners have profound incentives to serve customers. It is a rare proprietor who will turn away a paying customer because of a religious conviction. Yet over the past few years, several business owners like Tennes have done just that. These men and women believe their faith prohibits them from
I love animals as much as the next person — just ask my dog, Sammy, or the baby swallows my wife and I have been protecting (from our dog, among other things) on our front deck. Some religious citizens believe it is necessary, on occasion, to kill animals in a ritualistic manner."] But I understand that some religious citizens believe it is necessary, on occasion, to kill animals in a ritualistic manner. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read the Torah (the first five books of what Christians call the Old Testament). Most Jews, Christians, and Muslims no longer sacrifice animals,
Washington University law professor John Inazu has written an important new book. Confident Pluralism advocates for a robust understanding of pluralism that requires toleration and equal treatment of a wide range of groups; including, it is sadly necessary to say, unpopular ones. The first half of the book offers an excellent critique of the United States Supreme Court’s assault on pluralism over the past 40 years. Inazu demonstrates that justices have emasculated the First Amendment’s protection of the right to freely assemble by reducing it to either intimate association or expressive association. Intimate
What should happen if a government employee is asked to do something that violates her religious convictions? One possibility is to fire the employee if she won’t do the required task. No one has a right to work for the state, so if an employee can’t fulfill her job duties perhaps she should be replaced with someone who can. This might be reasonable in some cases. If an employee is unwilling to fulfill a substantial or critical part of her job, she should be replaced. It makes little sense to permit a religious pacifist to be an infantry commander or a Jehovah’s Witness who objects to blood
A government commission has recommended that a civil servant be removed from his post because of his thoughts. A scene from George Orwell’s 1984 or the dystopian novel Kallocain? Alas, no. Welcome to present-day Oregon. On January 25, 2016, Oregon’s Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability recommended that Judge Vance Day be removed as a Marion County judge for, among other things, declining to officiate same-sex weddings. Central to the opinion is the Commission’s finding that Judge Day is “a Christian whose firmly held religious beliefs include defining marriage as only between a
‘Tis the season to complain about a war on Christmas, or to deny that any such war has been declared. Advocacy groups upset by corporations that do not “properly” celebrate Christmas seem to think that the companies are motivated by anti-religious bias. These advocacy groups often encourage their members to avoid such institutions. I suspect most businesses emphasize or deemphasize holidays simply to maximize revenue, which is certainly their right. And Americans upset by their decisions have the right to shop where they wish. As someone who believes that Christ is central to Christmas, I
President Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education bodes well for the future of educational choice. However, DeVos’s nomination has come under assault because she supports vouchers that enable parents to, among other options, send their children to religious schools. Americans United for Separation of Church and State contends that vouchers “threaten religious liberty.” The president of the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union avers that DeVos’s voucher idea “perverts the bedrock American value of separation of church and state.”Both arguments
In 1954, Senator Lyndon Johnson convinced Congress to amend the tax code to prohibit nonprofit organizations from supporting political candidates. He did so to stifle two secular nonprofits opposing his reelection. But the Johnson amendment inadvertently applied to religious institutions as well, raising a serious threat to religious liberty. Donald Trump has promised to repeal the Johnson amendment. His motivations behind this promise are murky, but whatever they may be its repeal would be welcome as a major gain for religious freedom. It would also respect the important historical role that clergy
National and state governments often create accommodations to protect religious individuals from neutral, generally applicable laws, but they have also passed laws affirmatively protecting religious citizens from discrimination by both private and governmental entities. Most prominently, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits employers with more than 15 employees from (among other things) refusing to hire or fire someone because of his or her religion or religious practices. The statute also requires private businesses to make “reasonable accommodations” for their
Perhaps the most contentious and difficult political-moral-legal issue over the past half-century has been abortion. Many Americans consider it tantamount to murder, whereas others insist that access to the procedure is a fundamental constitutional right. Some activists believe that the state or private employers should be able to force medical providers to perform abortions even if they have sincere religious beliefs against doing so. The advent of emergency contraceptives/abortifacients such as Plan B and Ella raise similar issues with respect to pharmacists filling prescriptions. In
Laws Banning Alcohol and Drug Use The abuse of alcohol and drugs has led to untold problems throughout American history. Colonial Americans sought to regulate alcohol, and in the 19th century, a powerful movement arose to ban it altogether. In 1919, the U.S. Constitution was amended to effectively prohibit alcohol. Congress passed the Volstead Act the same year to implement this amendment. Of particular interest is Congress’s approach to the issue of sacramental wine. Sensitive to the reality that wine is used for the Eucharist (also known as Communion) and other religious ceremonies, Congress
Laws Requiring “Religious” Acts Since the advent of the Supreme Court’s modern Establishment Clause jurisprudence in 1947, it is almost impossible to think that a state would require individuals to support a religious institution or conduct a religious exercise. This has not always been the case. Taxing Everyone to Support One Denomination In the early American colonies, from north to south, many civic leaders believed that the state should favor a particular denomination and/or encourage Christianity. States with established churches often required everyone, including non-adherents, to fund
Mandatory School Attendance In the 19th century, civic leaders in many states advocated for compulsory education laws and the creation of public school systems. One motivation behind this movement was the desire for children to learn such basic skills as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Today, there is broad agreement that education is one of the most important services provided by governments. Some critics of public schools argue that states should fund private education as well, but virtually no one contends that they should revoke compulsory attendance laws or eliminate funding for education. In
Historically, oaths have been seen as essential for ensuring the loyalty and fidelity of citizens and elected officials. They were also viewed as critically important for the effective functioning of judicial systems. In the West, oaths historically invoke God as the witness of the oath taker’s veracity; written oaths often end with the phrase “so help me God.” The state obviously has an interest both in the loyalty of its citizens and elected officials and in having a reliable judicial system. In his famous Farewell Address, President George Washington wrote: Of all the dispositions and
Religious Accommodations and Military Service Americans regularly argue about the proper role of the state, but few dispute that governments have an obligation to protect citizens from external threats. In the modern era, states and nations have regularly relied upon compulsory military service or conscription to raise armies. Religious pacifists often ask to be excused from such service, but many countries have rejected their pleas. Pacifists and Military Conscription in American History Most American colonies required adult males to serve in the militia. Members of the Society of Friends, better
Why Accommodate Religion? America’s earliest colonial settlements were hardly bastions of religious liberty, but by the American Founding, virtually every civic leader believed that governments should not, in the words of James Madison, compel “men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience.” Scholars debate the exact meaning of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, but few deny that it prohibits governments from explicitly requiring or banning religious practices. By the late 20th century, it was a rare legislative body that would even consider doing so. In an extraordinary
For the last two centuries, Americans have been committed to the idea that governments should not force citizens to violate their religious convictions unless they have a compelling reason to do so. Alas, this consensus may be unraveling. Consider the case of Barronelle Stuzman. A grandmother from Richland, Washington, Mrs. Stutzman has worked as a florist for most of her professional life. For more than nine years, she willingly served Robert Ingersoll and his same sex-partner. On multiple occasions, she created floral arrangements to help them celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, and the like. But
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