In the News: Prisons Churches, Museums, and, of course, Hobby Lobby

Your body is a battleground by Barbara Kruger

Your body is a battleground by Barbara Kruger

It’s been a while since we gave you a round up of religion and media news stories, but boy-oh-boy is this summer chock-full of ’em. To start, here are some fantastic pieces out there by some recent contributors to The Revealer.

Ann Neumann in the New York Law School Law Review, “The Limits of Autonomy: Force-Feeding in Catholic Hospitals and in Prisons.”

For perhaps the first time in human history, the definition of death changed in the 1970s with the advent of new medical technologies. At one time, death meant the cessation of heartbeat, breathing, and brain function. But with the proliferation of defibrillators and respirators in hospital wards, able to sustain heartbeat and breathing indefinitely, brain function became the means by which death is now defined, “with appropriate blurriness.”

uO2IfJy6_400x400For more on prisons, check out Maurice Chammah‘s insightful review of the new season of “Orange is the New Black” in the Los Angeles Review of Books: “The Prison Show’s Dilemma.”

Like good fiction, long-form television can draw out empathy, mix it with the urge to judge, stir in disarming humor, and produce subtle cocktails of self-questioning. What it can’t do is fix our criminal justice system.

Brook Wilensky-Lanford has two great new pieces in Religion Dispatches. In the first, “The Dangerous Lies We Tell About America’s Founding,” she writes:

To conclude that America is a “Christian nation,” as numerous Christian conservatives insist, underestimates both the radicalness of the ideas on which the republic was founded and, more crucially, the source of our continuing national strength. 

And, in the second, “Your Pseudoscience Beach Read: Creationist Infighting Edition” she asks:

For how long will it be possible for young-earth creationism to hold on to a shred of unanimity, with all the creative contortions necessary to get billions of years of geologic history shoehorned into 6,000 years?

Kathryn Joyce asks “Why is the Mormon Church Getting Out of the Adoption Business?” in The Daily Beast.

The LDS-owned adoption agency that exerted powerful influence on national adoption policy is closing its doors, highlighting hard times for the adoption industry nationwide.

St_Paul_CMYK-max_221-dafdd068886f0be34feeb274fdf8b434Elizabeth Castelli recently published the first English translation of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s unfinished screenplay about the apostle Paul, called St. Paul You can read a review of the book in The New Statesman here and, if you’ll be in New York City this August 2nd, see a live reading of the screenplay at Light Industry in Brooklyn.

And Mary Valle has a fantastic interview with Luc Novocitch, the director of a new documentary about Roman Catholic Womanpriests, over at Killing the Buddah.

Luc Novocitch: I’d like to point out that I am not Catholic. I am not even Christian. But I do believe in what these women stand for.


As for that 800 pound SCOTUS in the room, here’s a collection of some of the best articles we’ve read about June’s Supreme Court Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision:

Ann Neumann in the December issue of The Revealer provided important context and analysis of what was at stake in her column, “The Patient Body: A Closely Held Business.”

The real question before the US Supreme Court then, despite the other many arguments for and against the “contraception mandate,” is this: whose beliefs are more important, an employer’s or an employee’s?

For a clear analysis of what happened and what could happened next, read Dahlia Lithwick and Sonja West’s “Quick Change Justice” in Slate.

At the end of this term, many people sighed a breath of relief that the outcome of Hobby Lobby was not as bad as we’d feared. It will be.


Jasmine Shea via

Jasmine Shea via

Asking some very tough questions about what the ruling means and how to respond, we recommend reading:

Ann Pelligrini‘s fierce analysis of the Hobby Lobby ruling and its implications for the future in her article “”Corporations Won, Women Nothing: Hobby Lobby’s ‘Special Rights‘” written for States of Devotion.

Is there an inherent conflict between religious liberty and women’s equal access to healthcare, which is a core component of gender equity?  On June 30th, a sharply divided US Supreme Court essentially said, yes.

There is another reason why we should resist refusing to recognize the substantial burden involved in what the plaintiffs believe to be the facilitation of sin, and that is that, contrary to Justice Sotmayor’s assertion, there is no test to which religious beliefs can be subjected in order to qualify for protection, other than what the believer subjectively thinks. We do not demand that speech meet any objective test of rationality or logic for it to be protected, and belief is no different. It is not for the Court to judge the merits of anyone’s beliefs.

And Winnifred Fallers Sullivan asking Liberals the hard questions in her piece “The Impossibility of Religious Freedom” written for University of Chicago Press’ Blog, The Chicago Blog.

 I believe that it is time for some serious self-reflection on the part of liberals. To the extent that these decisions are about religion (and there are certainly other reasons to criticize the reasoning in these opinions), they reveal the rotten core at the heart of all religious freedom laws. The positions of both liberals and conservatives are affected by this rottenness but I speak here to liberals.

As well as Asawin Suebsaeng in Mother Jones with a story about further uses of the ruling in Gitmo Detainees Cite Hobby Lobby in New Court Filing

 “Hobby Lobby makes clear that all persons—human and corporate, citizen and foreigner, resident and alien—enjoy the special religious free exercise protections of the [Religious Freedom Restoration Act],” the lawyers argue.

If you’re interested in more about where the fallout from this case could be going, The Daily Beast has a list of the 82 Corporations that have filed lawsuits similar to Hobby Lobby’s and could soon join them in refusing to cover certain forms of birth control for their employees.

Lastly, if reading all of this leaves you in want of a bit of humor, we present a vintage Hobby Lobby piece from last August’s Onion  “Washington’s Hobby Lobby Lobbies to Strengthen Hobbies” and a more contemporary piece from last week’s issue of The Atlanta Banana, “Supreme Court Upholds Little Caesar’s Right to Feed Christian Employees to Lions” [warning: includes language some might find objectionable].

Or maybe you’d rather just commodify The Dissent and start sporting one of these SCOTUS ’14 commemorative t-shirts.




Kali Handelman, Editor, The Revealer

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