Paul L. Caron

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Brunson & Hackney: A More Capacious Concept Of Church

Samuel D. Brunson (Loyola-Chicago; Google Scholar) & Philip Hackney (Pittsburgh; Google Scholar), A More Capacious Concept of Church, 56 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. __ (2023):

Loyola LA Law Review LogoUnited States tax law provides churches with extra benefits and robust protection from IRS enforcement actions. Churches and religious organizations are automatically exempt from the income tax without needing to apply to be so recognized and without needing to file a tax return. Beyond that, churches are protected from audit by stringent procedures. There are good reasons to consider providing a distance between church and state, including the state tax authority. In many instances, Congress granted churches preferential tax treatment to try to avoid excess entanglement between church and state, though that preferential treatment often just shifts the locus of entanglement. But those benefits and protections come with cost both to individual churches (by making these organizations susceptible to tax shelters and political activity shelters) and to our democratic order (by granting churches to a higher status than other organizations).

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March 19, 2023 in Faith, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Was The Sermon You Heard At Church Today Written By ChatGPT?

Axios, Religious Leaders Experiment With ChatGPT Sermons:

Bible ChatGPTReligious leaders are dabbling in ChatGPT for sermon writing, and largely reaching the same conclusion: It's great for plucking Bible verses and concocting nice-sounding sentiments but lacks the human warmth that congregants crave. ...

  • Early sermon-writing experiments have shown that ChatGPT can pull together cogent and relevant thoughts from religious texts and eminent theologians, plus turns-of-phrase that seem stirring and poignant.
  • A consensus seems to be emerging that ChatGPT can alleviate some of the religious leaders' more routine or repetitive tasks — such as explaining particular holidays — while freeing them for more meaningful spiritual counseling.

What they're saying: "It's really impressive — it's kind of amazing," Ken Sundet Jones, a Lutheran pastor and theology professor in Des Moines who posed the Lazarus question, told Axios.

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March 12, 2023 in Faith, Legal Ed Tech, Legal Education | Permalink

Religious Liberty Clinics At Notre Dame, Pepperdine, Texas, And Yale File Supreme Court Amicus Briefs: Post Office Must Accommodate Employee's Sabbath Observance

Supreme CourtFollowing up on my previous post, Two Perspectives On How Far Employers Must Go In Providing Religious Accommodations To Employees: four law school religious liberty clinics have filed amicus briefs arguing that the post office must accommodate an employee's observance of the Sabbath in Groff v. DeJoy, No. 21-1900:

  • Notre Dame (representing eight religious liberty and employment law scholars (including Bob Cochran (Pepperdine) and Rick Garnett (Notre Dame))
  • Pepperdine (representing the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America)
  • Texas (representing religious liberty scholars Asma Uddin (Visiting Assistant Professor, Catholic) and Steven Collis (Director, Texas Law & Religion Clinic))
  • Yale (representing the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada, Atlantic Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, North Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, and National Council of Young Israel)

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March 12, 2023 in Faith, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Pandora’s Box Of Religious Exemptions

Note, Pandora’s Box of Religious Exemptions, 136 Harv. L. Rev. 1178 (2023):

HarvardIn 2021, the Satanic Temple filed suit in federal court challenging Texas’s abortion bans on grounds of religious liberty. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s recent free exercise decisions, federal courts must now embark on the difficult task of deciphering the Court’s new jurisprudence and whether the First Amendment indeed protects such claims. Through its shadow docket and Fulton v. City of Philadelphia [141 S. Ct. 1868 (2021)], the Supreme Court has essentially adopted the test that had once been percolating among the lower courts — the most-], the Supreme Court has essentially adopted the test that had once been percolating among the lower courts — the most-favored-nation theory of free exercise. In doing so, the Court has signaled a radical shift in its religious exemption doctrine.

This Note argues, however, that the Supreme Court’s adoption of the most-favored-nation doctrine was both haphazard and sloppy, leaving lower courts with little meaningful guidance on how to evaluate the constitutionality of laws burdening religion.

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March 12, 2023 in Faith, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, March 5, 2023

NY Times Op-Ed: The Wages Of Idolatry

New York Times Op-Ed:  The Wages of Idolatry, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period (not counting Sundays) in the Christian calendar that is focused on repentance and preparation for Easter. During Lent, Christians talk a lot about sin, an idea that for many bears the mothball scent of a religious relic long packed away and best left forgotten. For some, the terms “sin” and “sinner” seem self-hating or judgmental. For others, they sound silly, associated with things like lingerie and decadent chocolate cake, what the English writer Francis Spufford deemed “enjoyable naughtiness.” Even those of us comfortable with these terms often think of sin as individual bad choices, like stealing and committing adultery. All of these notions seem inadequate to describe the source of so much oppression, violence, chaos and heartbreak in our world and our lives.

Yet there is a specific though less discussed category for sin that sheds light on human fault and failure that is particularly helpful in understanding our society and ourselves: idolatry. ...

In his book “You Are What You Love,” the philosopher and theologian James K.A. Smith points out that what most deeply drives us is often not what we articulate as our deepest love. In other words, he says, you may not love what you think you love. We may not worship what we say we do. Part of why idols can remain invisible to us is that they are often not individual in nature. Typically, communities, nations or subcultures have particular idols, which become so normative that they are no longer recognized as idols. They become the water we swim in.

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March 5, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Leaving Behind The American Gospel To Follow Jesus

David Platt, Don't Hold Back: Leaving Behind the American Gospel to Follow Jesus (2023):

Don't Hold BackThe New York Times bestselling author of Radical challenges Christians to break free from an American gospel that prostitutes Jesus for comfort, power, prosperity, and politics—and fully pursue the true gospel that exalts Jesus above all.

Pastor David Platt believes we’ve gotten really good at following a really bad gospel—one that worships American ideas over biblical truth. It’s time for disillusioned, discouraged, and divided Christians, and the next generation, to follow Jesus into a different future.

But we have to make a choice: an American gospel or the biblical gospel. Worldly division or otherworldly unity. Compromise with the idols of our country or commitment to God’s call in our lives. In Don’t Hold Back, Platt encourages followers of Jesus to take necessary risks and find unimaginable reward as we:

  • Work for—not against—each other, especially when we disagree
  • Turn the tide on centuries of racial division in the church
  • Trust all of God’s Word with conviction while loving everyone around us with compassion
  • Do justice with kindness, and experience the good life according to God
  • Play our part in spreading the gospel to all the nations of the world

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March 5, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Who Are These ‘Cultural Christians’|'Christian Atheists'?

Kevin Williamson (The Dispatch), Who Are These ‘Cultural Christians’?:

Christian sensibility, but without the belief, is very little more than niceness inflated to the point of metaphysical comedy.

A peculiar phenomenon of our time is the so-called cultural Christian or even “Christian atheist,” by which is meant someone who finds the moral claims and cultural sensibility of Christianity sympathetic but who does not (will not, cannot) accept the fundamental claim of Christianity, i.e. that the Creator of the universe embodied Himself in the form of a first-century Palestinian Jew who was tortured and put to death before rising from the dead to provide a fallen humanity with a path to redemption.

I do not much blame these “cultural Christians,” a breed that is increasingly common in conservative political circles, inasmuch as the supernatural claims of Christianity are—I write this as a believing Christian—positively absurd on first hearing. Also on second and third hearing, and for many more hearings, and sometimes (often, I think) to the committed and convinced Christian. There are lots of true things that sound crazy. ...

So, why the “cultural Christian”? Where does he come from, and what does he want?

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March 5, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Inazu: Kicking Off The Legal Vocation Fellowship For Early-Career Christian Attorneys

Following up on my previous post, Pepperdine Caruso Law Partners With Legal Vocation Fellowship For Early-Career Attorneys:  John Inazu (Washington University; Google Scholar), Kicking off the Legal Vocation Fellowship:

LVFThis past Thursday, we launched the Legal Vocation Fellowship (LVF). I mentioned LVF in an earlier post discussing the challenges of burnout and mental health in contemporary legal practice. ...

LVF is designed for early-career attorneys seeking to integrate their Christian faith into the practice of law. In a pluralistic society where the sources and values of law and legal practice are contested and contestable, we want to anchor a distinctive community of Christians who desire to love God and love neighbor through their knowledge, understanding, and practice of law.

This practically-oriented 15-month program is led by Christian law faculty and senior practitioners. Our inaugural cohort of 18 mentors and 20 fellows is drawn from five cities: Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. Our core faculty include Rick Garnett of Notre Dame Law School, Ruth Okediji of Harvard Law School, Elizabeth Schiltz of University of St. Thomas Law School, David Skeel of University of Pennsylvania School of Law, and me. In a news story from Notre Dame, Professor Garnett expressed his desire “to help Christian lawyers flourish.” And in Pepperdine’s coverage of LVF—Pepperdine is an LVF sponsor and Pepperdine law professor Jennifer Koh is one of our speakers—Pepperdine’s dean Paul Caron added his shared “commitment to transforming the legal profession for the benefit of all.” ...

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February 26, 2023 in Faith, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

WSJ Op-Ed: The Gospel Of St. George (Costanza)

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  George Costanza’s Guide to Better Living, by Mike Kerrigan (Hunton Andrews Kurth, Charlotte, NC):

In the classic “Seinfeld” episode, “The Opposite,” George Costanza laments during lunch his terrible instincts and their resulting life choices. Hearing this, Jerry Seinfeld observes, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” Inspired, George approaches an attractive woman dining alone and against all instinct tries honesty: “My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.” She agrees to a date.

Such wit and wisdom! So what if it’s merely sitcom dialogue? The cannonade behind George Costanza’s newfound approach to living has lit the Western sky for centuries. Support is found in the intellectual artillery of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ignatius of Loyola and C.S. Lewis. ...

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February 26, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times: ‘Woodstock’ for Christians — Revival Draws Thousands To Asbury University In Kentucky


New York Times:  ‘Woodstock’ for Christians: Revival Draws Thousands to Kentucky Town, by Ruth Graham:

For two weeks, tens of thousands of people have made a pilgrimage to a tiny Christian college, about 30 minutes south of Lexington, for what some scholars and worshipers describe as the nation’s first major spiritual revival of the 21st century.

Drawn by posts on TikTok and Instagram, plus old-fashioned word of mouth, Christians from across the country poured through a chapel on the campus of Asbury University to pray and sing until the wee hours of the morning, lining up hours before the doors opened and leaving only when volunteers closed the chapel at 1 a.m. to clean it for the next day.

They were hoping “to experience the presence” of God, Brittany Faubel, a Valor student, said.

The unplanned event has strained the campus and kept the little chapel filled at all hours, prompting administrators to wind down the spectacle and disruption. Beginning Friday, the school said, there will be no more public events. Students said they were ready to return to their normal campus rhythms. ...

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February 26, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Inazu: What The Left And The Right Get Wrong About The 'He Gets Us' Super Bowl Jesus Ads

John Inazu (Washington University; Google Scholar), Misplaced Outrage Over a Super Bowl Ad:

[O]ne of the most commented parts of this past Sunday’s Super Bowl was a series of ads called “He Gets Us.”

As CNN reports, the Super Bowl ads are part of a larger media campaign that launched last year on television, billboards, and social media. CNN describes the ads as “portraying the pivotal figure of Christianity as an immigrant, a refugee, a radical, an activist for women’s rights and a bulwark against racial injustice and political corruption.” The two ads cost around $20 million and are part of a larger multiyear effort to portray an image of Jesus that challenges negative public perceptions of Christianity. As the “He Gets Us” website announces: “He Gets Us has an agenda,” which is to ask “how might we all rediscover the promise of the love his story represents?”

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February 19, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

WSJ Op-Ed: Character Counts In The Super Bowl (And In Life)

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  Character Counts at the Super Bowl, by Mike Kerrigan (Hunton Andrews Kurth, Charlotte, NC):

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon gave examples of selfless and sportsmanlike conduct. ...

With less than two minutes to go in the game and the score tied, Jerick McKinnon of the Kansas City Chiefs faced every running back’s dream: nothing but daylight between himself and the end zone. A touchdown in Super Bowl LVII would have brought him individual renown—kleos, as the ancient Greeks called it—and surely every muscle in his rigorously trained body wanted to break the plane of the goal line.

To do that, though, would have given the football back to the Philadelphia Eagles with time on the clock, putting the game in the hands of star quarterback Jalen Hurts. So Mr. McKinnon went into what the Chiefs aptly call “church mode.” He ran to the 1-yard line, took a knee and declared himself down, enabling his team to run the game clock down to a mere eight seconds and kick what became the game-winning field goal. By trading personal acclaim for team glory, Mr. McKinnon ultimately achieved far more kleos than a lone touchdown could have secured.

After the Super Bowl, perpetually even-keeled Mr. Hurts was asked to describe his emotional state after the heartbreaking loss. His answer—“You either win or you learn”—proved that stoicism is much more than a disposition to him. The Greek philosopher Epictetus, whose body—but not his mind—was born into slavery, was known to ask himself nightly before slumber, “Where did I go wrong? What did I do? And what duty’s left undone?” He knew what happens in life is nothing. How you respond to what happens in life is everything. ...

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February 19, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

A Glimpse Into Faith At Pepperdine Caruso Law: Dean’s Bible Study

Bible Study

The Graphic, A Glimpse Into Faith at Caruso Law: Dean’s Bible Study:

The Dean’s Bible Study offers Caruso School of Law students a time to worship and opens a space to share faith with one another. Attendees of the the two-hour Dean’s Bible Study service gather in community, listen to sermons and pray.

The Dean’s Bible Study offers Caruso School of Law students a time to worship and opens a space to share faith with one another. Attendees of the the two-hour Dean’s Bible Study service gather in community, listen to sermons and pray. “My first year it [the Bible study] was such a cornerstone for me; it was a nonnegotiable time,” Heuermann said.

The Dean’s Bible Study occurs every Wednesday of the academic year and is open to all Pepperdine students, Caron said. With a new guest speaker each week, students can worship in community and connect with God.

The Dean’s Bible Study has been a longstanding tradition at Caruso for 43 years, according to Caruso’s website. With the myriad of academic and mental challenges of attending law school, having a faith community for sharing and support can make those challenges more manageable, Heuermann said. ...

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February 19, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education, Pepperdine Legal Ed | Permalink

Sunday, February 12, 2023

NY Times Op-Ed: The Astonishing Moral Beauty Of The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth And The Black Church

New York Times Op-Ed:  The Astonishing Moral Beauty of the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and the Black Church, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, a pastor in Birmingham, Ala., in the 1950s, was called by the historian Andrew Manis “one of the least known but most impactful figures in the civil rights movement.” Shuttlesworth was a close friend and colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but nearly his opposite in personality — boisterous, direct and exuberant by nature. In his obituary, The Times contrasted the two men, saying: “Where Dr. King could deliver thunderous oratory and move audiences by his reasoned convictions and faith, Mr. Shuttlesworth was fiery.” He was, the author Diane McWhorter told The Times, “King’s most effective and insistent foil: blunt where King was soothing, driven where King was leisurely, and most important, confrontational where King was conciliatory.” The segregationist commissioner of public safety in Birmingham, Bull Connor, saw Shuttlesworth as his nemesis. When asked about chest injuries Shuttlesworth incurred from being sprayed by a fire hose at close range during a peaceful protest, Connor told The Times: “I wish they’d carried him away in a hearse.”

In Manis’s biography of Shuttlesworth, “A Fire You Can’t Put Out,” which I came across last month, there was one story in particular that brought tears to my eyes. On Sept. 9, 1957, the very day President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act and lawyers sought injunctive relief to force Arkansas to integrate Central High in Little Rock, Shuttlesworth organized the integration of Phillips High School in Birmingham, driving his own two children to the school to enroll them.

He was met by a white mob that beat him with baseball bats, chains and brass knuckles. As he was beginning to lose consciousness, Shuttlesworth recounts that “something” said to him: “You can’t die here. Get up. I have a job for you to do.” In the hospital later that day, a reporter asked Shuttlesworth what he was working for in Birmingham. He responded: “For the day when the man who beat me and my family with chains at Phillips High School can sit down with us as a friend.”

Shuttlesworth was resolutely committed to justice. He was, by his own estimate, arrested in peaceful protests some 30 to 40 times. His house was bombed with his whole family inside one Christmas Eve. His church was subjected to three different bombing attempts. He remained until his death in 2011 a man of deep Christian faith who constantly spoke about how the Bible required us to seek systemic change and racial equality. Yet even in his darkest hour he honored and affirmed the humanity and dignity of those who hated him by holding out the possibility of forgiveness, redemption and even friendship.

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February 12, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: There Is Glory And God In Our Struggles

New York Times O-Ed:  There Is Glory and God in Our Struggles, by Esau McCaulley (Wheaton; author, Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope (2020)):

McCaulleyEvery February, Black History Month, Americans engage in a futile attempt to squeeze into 28 days the history of a people whose tribulations, contributions and successes are on every page of the American narrative. For African Americans, at least, the struggle to tell our story and make sense of our place in the American saga never recedes from view.

Understanding who we are and why we have suffered so much in this country is something like existential questions that wax and wane, coinciding with the peaks and valleys of anti-Black racism. Are we more than the identities and labels people have given us? Is there more to our narrative than the whip and the chain?

Some have tried to find a sense of origin in the remnants of African culture that survived the middle passage and that made their way into the religious and social lives of Black communities. Black history, we think, is there, broken and fragmented, in the spirituals and the blues. Others have pursued a more direct route, taking DNA tests to find their roots. And some African Americans are moving back to the motherland.

Black religious groups, in particular, have struggled with questions of identity and history. That is no surprise given that some theologians and pastors justified our enslavement by evoking the curse of Ham, saying that African people were predestined to servitude.

This has led to the criticism from within our communities that Christianity is a white man’s religion. Resisting this idea is a regular feature of many preachers’ sermons. They argue that the white supremacy practiced by “Christian” enslavers was a corruption of the religion, not the thing itself.

The Black Hebrew Israelite movement gives African peoples a sense of self by claiming the identity of the nation of Israel depicted in the biblical texts common to Jews and Christians. The community is quite diverse in its beliefs and opinions. ...

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February 12, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

David Brooks And Michael Gerson On Depression And Faith

In a moving New York Times op-ed, David Brooks reflects on a dear friend's suicide after battling depression for three years. Brooks had struggled with how to best serve his friend during this period and said the most useful thing he did was sharing the video of Michael Gerson's beautiful 13-minute sermon at the Washington National Cathedral on his depression and faith. (Gerson died less than four years later at age 58.)

For a link to the full transcript and an excerpt, see below the fold.

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February 12, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, February 5, 2023

NY Times Op-Ed: The Rationality And Danger Of Spiritual Experimentation

New York Times Op-Ed:  Be Open to Spiritual Experience. Also, Be Really Careful., by Ross Douthat:

[T]he dissolution of the old order of American religion — the decline of churches and denominations and the rise of deinstitutionalized spirituality — means that more and more religious lives are lived in between worldviews, in experimental territory where it’s a mistake to expect coherence, theological consistency, a definite set of prior assumptions or beliefs.

In this column I want to defend the rationality of this kind of spiritual experimentation and then to warn about its dangers. ...

[T[he basic pattern of human existence and experience, an ordered and mathematically beautiful cosmos that yields extraordinary secrets to human inquiry and supplies all kinds of wild spiritual experiences even in our allegedly disenchanted age (and even sometimes to professional skeptics), makes a general openness to metaphysical possibilities a fundamentally reasonable default. And this is especially true if you have no theological tradition, no religious upbringing to structure your encounter with the universe’s mysteries — if you’re starting fresh, as many people nowadays are.

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February 5, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Aprill & Mayer: 21st Century Churches And Federal Tax Law

Ellen P. Aprill (Loyola-L.A.; Google Scholar) & Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer (Notre Dame; Google Scholar), 21st Century Churches and Federal Tax Law:

Federal tax treatment matters to churches, the term the IRS uses for all types of religious congregations, including synagogues, mosques, and temples. The federal tax provisions most significant for churches and certain entities closely related to them, however, are not those that the public and commentators often assume. Exemption from income tax and the ability of donors to deduct contributions, the benefits that receive the most public attention, in fact provide surprisingly little benefit either to churches in the aggregate or to most individual churches. Their status as organizations tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, moreover, imposes a variety of burdens on them. The burdens include limitations on lobbying and the prohibition on any intervention in campaigns for public office.

At the same time churches enjoy special tax benefits not afforded to other section 501(c)(3) organizations, not even other kinds of tax-exempt religious organizations. These special benefits make church status appealing. Such benefits include exemption from filing the IRS Form 990, an annual information return that, with the exception of the names and addresses of major donors, is also publicly available. In addition, the IRS cannot begin any audit of a church unless it complies with a number of procedures.

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February 5, 2023 in Faith, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Two Perspectives On How Far Employers Must Go In Providing Religious Accommodations To Employees

New York Times Op-Ed:  The Latest Crusade to Place Religion Over the Rest of Civil Society, by Linda Greenhouse:

Federal civil rights law requires employers to accommodate their employees’ religious needs unless the request would impose “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” Congress didn’t bother to define “undue hardship,” so 46 years ago the Supreme Court came up with a definition of its own.

An accommodation requiring an employer “to bear more than a de minimis cost” — meaning a small or trifling cost — need not be granted, the court said in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison. ...

Treating religion as nothing particularly special, the decision reflected the spirit of the times but was deeply unpopular in religious circles. There have been many attempts over many years to persuade Congress to amend the law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to shift the balance explicitly in favor of religiously observant employees. Between 1994 and 2019, more than a dozen such bills were introduced. None emerged from Congress.

And so now, a very different court from the one that ruled 46 years ago is about to do the work itself.

That isn’t an idle prediction but rather the surely foreordained outcome of the new case the justices recently added to their calendar for decision during the current term. The appeal was brought by a conservative Christian litigating group, First Liberty Institute, on behalf of a former postal worker, Gerald Groff, described as a Christian who regards Sunday as a day for “worship and rest.”

Mr. Groff claimed a legal right to avoid the Sunday shifts required during peak season at the post office where he worked. Facing discipline for failing to show up for his assigned shifts, he quit and filed a lawsuit. The lower courts ruled against him, with the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit expressing no doubt that the disruption and loss of morale Mr. Groff’s absences caused in the small rural post office where he worked exceeded the de minimis threshold that the Supreme Court’s 1977 precedent requires an employer to demonstrate. ...

When the court doubtless rules for him later this term, the decision will not stand for a vindication of minority rights. It will instead signify the court’s complete identification with the movement in the country’s politics to elevate religion over all other elements of civil society.

Whether today’s Supreme Court is helping to lead that movement or has been captured by it is by now beside the point. Religion is the lens through which the current majority views American society; as I have written, there is no other way to understand the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The endpoint of this project is not yet in view. Those of us not on board are left to watch, to try to understand, and to call the court out with each additional step it takes.

Forward Op-Ed:  A New Case Before the Supreme Court Could Make Shabbat Observance Easier, by Michael Helfand (Pepperdine & Yale):

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February 5, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, January 29, 2023

David French: Faith, Not Politics, Can Heal Lonely Hearts And A Nation

David French, Can More Church Heal What Ails the Lonely Heart?:

[I want to talk about] the decline in church attendance, deaths of despair, and the necessity of community for hope and purpose.

Last week, my little corner of the online world lit up with people sharing a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper tying America’s ongoing decline in religious practice to the increase in “deaths of despair”—ones involving suicide, alcohol abuse, and drug overdose [Opiates of the Masses? Deaths of Despair and the Decline of American Religion].

The study, by Tyler Giles [Wellesley College], Daniel M. Hungerman [Notre Dame], and Tamar Oostrom [Ohio State], found that a “large decline in religious practice was driven by the group experiencing subsequent increases in mortality: white middle-aged Americans without a college degree.” And that’s not all:

We also show that there is a strong negative relationship across states between religiosity and mortality due to deaths of despair. We further find that states that experienced larger declines in religious participation in the last 15 years of the century saw larger increases in deaths of despair. Both the decline in religiosity and the rise in deaths of despair were driven by the same group of individuals in the same places.

French 2

To demonstrate the connection between declining religiosity and rising deaths, the authors examined the link between the repeal of blue laws (laws which regulate commerce on Sabbath days, traditionally Sunday), subsequent decreases in church attendance, and the rise in suicides, overdoses, and alcohol deaths. ...

It’s hard to think of an institution that can better provide hope and purpose than a well-functioning church. There is a reason John 3:16 is one of the most remembered verses in scripture: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

There is a reason Jeremiah 29:11 is framed in countless American homes: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

These verses provide a combination of eternal and temporal assurance of God’s loving nature. That doesn’t mean Christianity can’t be incredibly demanding (Jesus urged his disciples to take up their cross to follow him), but a demanding life is a purposeful life. ...

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January 29, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: The Americanization Of Religion

New York Times Op-Ed:  The Americanization of Religion, by Ross Douthat:

In September the Pew Research Center modeled four potential futures for American religion, depending on different rates of conversion to and disaffiliation from the nation’s faiths. In three of the four projections, the Christian percentage of the U.S. population, which hovered around 90 percent in the 1970s and 1980s, drops below 50 percent within the next half-century. In two scenarios, the Christian share drops below 50 percent much sooner, sometime around 2040, and then keeps on falling.


This is a potentially epochal transition, but a transition of what kind? Toward a truly secular America, with John Lennon’s “Imagine” as its national anthem? Or toward a society awash in new or remixed forms of spirituality, all competing for the souls of lapsed Catholics, erstwhile United Methodists, the unhappily unchurched?

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January 29, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

WaPo Op-Ed: Think America Is A ‘Christian Nation’? George Washington Didn’t.

Washington Post Op-Ed:  Think America Is a ‘Christian Nation’? George Washington Didn’t., by Jennifer Rubin:

The Jewish community in the United States is as old as its democracy. In August 1790, George Washington sent a letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, R.I., thanking them for their well wishes.

He wrote: “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.” He added, “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

To a people long denied citizenship in the Old World, kept as a people apart from Christian neighbors, Washington was explaining something quite revolutionary: The United States does not simply forbear Jews; Jews are part of the United States. As the Touro Synagogue in Newport explains on its website: “The letter reassured those who had fled religious tyranny that life in the new nation would be different, that religious ‘toleration’ would give way to religious liberty, and that the government would not interfere with individuals in matters of conscience and belief.” ...

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January 29, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, January 22, 2023

How A Person Of Faith Can Overcome Imposter Syndrome In Law School

David Grenardo (St. Thomas-Minnesota), How A Person of Faith Can Address Imposter Syndrome in Law School, 37 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y ___ (2023):

Notre Dame JLEPPImposter syndrome makes people feel as if they are frauds and others will soon find out that they do not belong. Imposter syndrome typically affects high achievers, which includes law students and lawyers. Law schools can provide resources and tools for law students to address imposter syndrome, but a person of faith can approach imposter syndrome in unique ways. This Article sets forth the various ways a law student of faith can confront and overcome imposter syndrome.

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January 22, 2023 in Faith, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

David French: How A Great American Victory Altered American Faith

David French (The Dispatch), How a Great American Victory Altered American Faith:

NonvertsLast week I read a tweet that led me to a book I’m now devouring at record speed. The tweet was from my friend Skye Jethani, and it referred to a potential link between the end of the Cold War and the rise of America’s religious nones. I’ve been thinking about the continuing influence of the Cold War on American life for a very long time. Our nation spent generations defined by the struggle against Soviet communism, and that struggle (along with its rather abrupt end) was bound to have profound effects on our national life.

The book is called Nonverts: The Making of Ex-Christian America, by a British sociologist named Stephen Bullivant. It’s not just an important book, it’s the best-written and most readable work of religious sociology that I’ve read in a very long time.

At the risk of over-simplification, Bullivant’s book attempts to explain the ... remarkable rise of religious “nones” in the United States:

French 3Source: Grid, A Mass Exodus From Christianity Is Underway in America. Here’s Why.

... In the chart above, a distinct data point stands out—the sharp rise of young “nones” begins in the early 1990s. Why? That’s when the Cold War ended, and Bullivant argues convincingly that the end of the Cold War marked the beginning of a new era of American religion.

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January 22, 2023 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Seasons of Sorrow: The Pain Of Loss And The Comfort Of God

Tim Challies, Seasons of Sorrow: The Pain of Loss and the Comfort of God (2022):

Season of SorrowOn November 3, 2020, Tim and Aileen Challies received the shocking news that their son Nick had died. A twenty-year-old student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, he had been participating in a school activity with his fiancée, sister, and friends, when he fell unconscious and collapsed to the ground.

Neither students nor a passing doctor nor paramedics were able to revive him. His parents received the news at their home in Toronto and immediately departed for Louisville to be together as a family. While on the plane, Tim, an author and blogger, began to process his loss through writing. In Seasons of Sorrow, Tim shares real-time reflections from the first year of grief—through the seasons from fall to summer—introducing readers to what he describes as the “ministry of sorrow.”

Seasons of Sorrow will benefit both those that are working through sorrow or those comforting others:

  • See how God is sovereign over loss and that he is good in loss
  • Discover how you can pass through times of grief while keeping your faith
  • Learn how biblical doctrine can work itself out even in life’s most difficult situations
  • Understand how it is possible to love God more after loss than you loved him before

Matt McCullough (Christianity Today; Author, Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope), ‘I Will Grieve but not Grumble, Mourn but not Murmur, Weep but not Whine’: What Tim Challies Resolved in the Wake of His Son’s Sudden Death:

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January 22, 2023 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Saturday, January 21, 2023

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Top Ten 2Legal Education:

  1. NY Times Op-Ed, What If Diversity Trainings Are Doing More Harm Than Good?
  2. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), Summary Of Changes To The Forthcoming U.S. News Law School Rankings
  3. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), U.S. News Provides Additional Information On Forthcoming Law School Rankings
  4. Jerry Organ (St. Thomas),  The Declining 2022 Law School Transfer Market
  5. Marcus Cole (Dean, Notre Dame) I Am George Floyd. Except, I Can Breathe. And I Can Do Something.
  6. Derek Muller (Iowa), Modeling and Projecting the Forthcoming U.S. News Law School Rankings
  7. NY Times, If Affirmative Action Ends, College Admissions May Be Changed Forever
  8. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), With Maryland, USF, And South Texas, 28 Schools Are Now Boycotting The U.S. News Law School Rankings
  9. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), Resources For Authors Submitting Law Review Articles In The Spring 2023 Cycle
  10. Bloomberg Law, Bloomberg Law Announces Top 10 Law School Innovators


  1. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), Tax Policy in the Biden Administration
  2. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), The 10 Most Downloaded Tax Articles Of 2022
  3. Wall Street Journal, Why So Many Accountants Are Quitting
  4. Tax Foundation, Americans Moved to Low-Tax States in 2022
  5. Call For Papers, Cambridge Tax Policy Conference On Tax, Public Finance And The Rule of Law
  6. Daniel Hemel (NYU), The IRS’s Christmas Gift To Airbnb And PayPal Is A Loss For Law-Abiding Taxpayers
  7. Susan Morse (Texas), Review of Eleanor Wilking (Cornell), Independent Contractors in Law and in Fact
  8. SSRN, The Top Five New Tax Papers
  9. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), 2023 Tax Prof Rankings By H-Index All (Google Scholar)
  10. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), 2023 Tax Prof Rankings By H-Index Since 2018 (Google Scholar)


  1. Inside Higher Education, Christian Law School To Start Hiring Jewish Faculty

January 21, 2023 in About This Blog, Faith, Legal Education, Tax, Weekly Top 10 TaxProf Blog Posts | Permalink

Monday, January 16, 2023

NY Times Op-Ed: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Last Sunday Sermon 'Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution'

New York Times Op-Ed:  The Kind of Revolution That Martin Luther King Jr. Envisioned, by Esau McCaulley (Wheaton):

In 1968, four days before he was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his last Sunday sermon at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. It was entitled, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” and although King doesn’t say the word “woke,” he uses the concept as it was understood by many Black folks then, well before the term was co-opted by the political right to refer to any left-leaning policy that it wanted to condemn.

The sermon is an opportunity to encounter the real King, who is too often obfuscated by politicians who use his legacy to support their own agendas. They contend that King was “colorblind,” when in fact his policy aims were unapologetically color-conscious.

King opened his sermon by recalling the well-known story of Rip Van Winkle, the character in the Washington Irving book of the same name who slept for 20 years. King notes that when Rip went to sleep, King George III reigned, and when he awoke, George Washington had become president. Rip Van Winkle had slept through the revolution.

King believed that too many Americans, especially those in its churches, were also snoozing through a time ripe for transformation. They needed to wake up to the injustice all around them and make demands for change.

What kind of revolution did he envision?

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January 16, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, January 15, 2023

David French: The Law Is Protecting Religious Liberty, But Christians Are Not Securing Integrity In Their Institutions

David French (The Dispatch), How A Progressive Judge Helped Preserve American Pluralism:

French (2023)The law is doing its part. Are Christians doing theirs?

[P]reserving and rebuilding American civic associations is one of the most urgent tasks in American political and cultural life. As a matter of law, it is vital to respect the autonomy and independence of America’s private associations. As a matter of culture, it is critical that members of those groups preserve the organizations’ health, integrity, and vitality.

If either side fails in its obligation—if the government intrudes upon liberty or if associations fail to conduct themselves with integrity—then the system becomes unstable. Human beings are built for community, and if we’re denied that community (or if our communities become dysfunctional), then we’ll fail to thrive. It’s that simple. And it should be a central organizing principle of conservatism to conserve both the freedom and the health of our associations as a necessary precondition to human flourishing.

And that brings me to the Eugene case. In 2021, a coalition of dozens of students brought a lawsuit against the Department of Education challenging the religious exemption in Title IX, the federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded education programs. Title IX contains a narrow exemption for “an educational institution which is controlled by a religious organization if the application of this subsection would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”

The plaintiffs were concerned with the way in which Christian education institutions applied their religious traditions to sexual morality. Many Christian schools uphold and advance a traditional Christian sexual ethic, which limits sex to marriage and defines marriage as the union of a man and woman. The plaintiffs argued that the religious carve-out, which permits religious schools to maintain their faith-based policies and seek federal funding on an equal footing with secular schools, violated the Constitution. ...

The moment the case was filed, it became fuel for the culture war fire.

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January 15, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Christian Law School To Start Hiring Jewish Faculty

Inside Higher Education, Sea Change or Small Step Toward Interreligious Inclusion?:

Belmont 2Belmont University, a private Christian institution in Nashville, Tenn., plans to break a long-standing tradition of only hiring Christian instructors by opening some faculty positions to Jewish candidates.

University leaders recently announced they’re specifically recruiting Jewish faculty members to teach in three of its graduate programs, hopefully as early as this spring. The Board of Trustees and Faculty Senate also plan to consider a similar decision at the undergraduate level later this year.

The announcement, made at a Faculty Senate meeting in November, was met with a range of reactions. Campus administrators and some members of the local Jewish community celebrated the shift as a step toward greater interreligious inclusion, aligned with recent Jewish-Christian interfaith efforts at Belmont. Some scholars, in and outside the institution, believe the change moves the university too far from its Christian roots, while others say the policy isn’t inclusive enough, embracing one faith community to the exclusion of others. ...

The university plans to recruit Jewish faculty members to teach in the university’s law school, pharmacy school and new medical school, scheduled to open in 2024. The accreditors for both the law school and the medical school prohibit the university from requiring faculty members be Christian but do allow the university to state a preference for applicants of specific faiths in their job ads.

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January 15, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

L.A. Times: Pastor|Professor Bridges Faith|Psychology

Los Angeles Times, Pastor Thema Bryant Bridges Faith and Psychology:

Bryant 3The men’s choir had just brought down the house with the gospel classic “Miracle Worker” when Thema Bryant danced up to the lectern at First AME Church in South L.A.

Rising to the full height of her slim, 5-foot-7 frame, the 49-year-old ordained minister and psychologist smiled wide at the congregation before launching into her sermon — part preacherly rapture, part group therapy.

She was wearing purple, she said, in honor of it being the last Sunday of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. She praised God for the survivors in the house and for those who grew up witnessing domestic violence and were committed to breaking the cycle. Then she made the unusual move of thanking the Almighty for the former offenders in the pews — keyword “former” — who were making a different choice because, as she reminded the congregation, domestic violence is a choice. ...

The room had fallen silent when she began, but by the time she finished, the organ was pounding out invisible exclamation marks and the church rang with applause.

It was a tricky maneuver, this straddling of psychology and religion at a Sunday morning service at a venerable Black church. But Bryant, who lectures nationally and internationally on diversity, multiculturalism and trauma, is equally at home in both worlds.

Since Freud first cast religion as a collective neurosis in the early 1900s, religion and psychology have historically eyed each other with suspicion, if not outright antagonism. Some psychologists argued that religious belief was a way of avoiding reality, while some religious leaders questioned the need for psychology when a person could turn to God.

Bryant’s many admirers within academia, the psychology field and the Black church say that she often serves as a bridge between them. Perhaps this explains why more than 332,000 people follow her inspirational musings on Instagram. ...

This month Bryant became president of the American Psychological Assn., the nation’s largest organization of psychologists, with more than 130,000 members. She is only the fourth Black woman and the second minister to assume the presidency in the organization’s 130-year history. The last time a minister led the group was in 1893.

Her historic election is emblematic of a growing openness among psychologists to engage with faith and spirituality, said Kenneth Pargament, professor emeritus of psychology at Bowling Green State University. “There’s an acknowledgment that there are aspects of being human that are not well captured by psychology — things like meaning and forgiveness, hope and humility,” he said.

Bryant sees people of many faiths — and no faith — in her private practice and says spirituality comes up only when it’s relevant for her clients. She never tries to convert anyone. Still, her official bio identifies her as both psychologist and Christian minister.

“I resist the idea that to be professional means you have to be a blank slate,” she recently told a graduate class at Pepperdine University, where she directs the Culture and Trauma Research Laboratory. “I hope you will bring all of yourself into the space, because what is healing is authenticity.” ...

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January 15, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education, Pepperdine Legal Ed | Permalink

Hofmann: The Politics Of Religion And Taxation: Keeping Church And State Separate

Mary Ann Hofmann (Appalachian; Google Scholar), The Politics of Religion and Taxation: Keeping Church and State Separate, 22 J. of Mgmt. Pol'y & Prac. 31 (2021):

This paper discusses tax laws and federal court decisions relating to the taxation or exemption of religious non-profit organizations. In a democracy characterized by separation of church and state, what role does the federal government play in regulating the activities and financial transactions of churches and other religious non-profit organizations? What are the federal statutory requirements regarding tax exemption for churches, tax deductibility of donations to churches, and political activity by churches, and are these requirements justified? Does this regulation interfere with the free exercise of religion, or does the federal government violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment by providing inappropriate tax benefits to churches and clergy?

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January 15, 2023 in Faith, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, January 8, 2023

WSJ Op-Ed: How Damar Hamlin Drove A Nation to Pray

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  How Damar Hamlin Drove a Nation to Pray: by Barton Swaim (Editorial Page Writer, Wall Street Journal):

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that a Bremerton, Wash., high-school football coach was improperly fired for praying with his players after games. That was only the most recent of high court cases involving the question of when prayer on public grounds is and isn’t permissible. ...

The idea that prayer is improper at big-time sporting events was forgotten on Monday night. It happened nine minutes into the game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. Bills safety Damar Hamlin, after a routine tackle, stood up and then collapsed. Minutes later, emergency medical staff delivered cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The game was suspended, and suddenly prayer was back on the list of things anybody could talk about or do on camera.

Paycor Stadium, where the Bengals play, is owned by Hamilton County; it’s public property. But no one, so far as I am aware, raised any objection to the midfield prayers offered up on Monday night. That is because the fall of Damar Hamlin demanded a religious response. The ominous way in which the lithe 24-year-old dropped to the turf—not slumping down but falling backward—visibly shocked nearby players and appalled viewers. ...

Any legal or cultural prohibitions attaching to sporting-event prayers were, for the moment, rescinded. Players knelt, many plainly in prayer. ...

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January 8, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: Pope Benedict Wasn’t Conservative. He Was Something Much More Surprising.

New York Times Op-Ed:  Pope Benedict Wasn’t Conservative. He Was Something Much More Surprising., by  Matthew Walther (Editor, The Lamp; Contributing Editor, The American Conservative):

Pope“The words of a dead man,” W.H. Auden wrote in his elegy for a fellow poet, “are modified in the guts of the living.” In the case of Pope Benedict XVI, whose requiem Mass was celebrated on Thursday, this process of transformation began long before his death.

During the almost quarter-century in which Joseph Ratzinger served as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he carried on something of a good cop-bad cop routine with Pope John Paul II. Whereas John Paul’s sunny disposition and glad-handing stadium tours eventually won him the affection of nearly everyone not named Sinead O’Connor, Cardinal Ratzinger was seen by critics (and even some admirers) as a holdover from the period before the Second Vatican Council. His was an older, more aloof style of churchmanship that seemed ultraconservative, detached, forbidding, skeptical of emotion, indifferent to the experience of the laity and the lower clergy alike, much less to those of non-Catholics. His enemies called him “God’s Rottweiler.”

Having spent the last week reading again through the authorized biography by Peter Seewald and revisiting his own published writings, I find that Benedict the theologian bears almost no resemblance to popular caricatures. ...

The real Benedict is less straightforwardly conservative than many claim him to have been, an unclassifiable thinker whose legacy has more in common with that of Soren Kierkegaard or John Henry Newman or G.K. Chesterton — those idiosyncratic but somehow essential figures in the modern history of Western Christianity who, in translating fundamental questions about the nature of the universe into the language of their own era, spoke for all time. ...

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January 8, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Faith On The Hill: The Religious Composition Of The 118th Congress

Pew Research Center, Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 118th Congress:

PewAs it begins its 118th session, the U.S. Congress remains largely untouched by two trends that have long marked religious life in the United States: a decades-long decline in the share of Americans who identify as Christian, and a corresponding increase in the percentage who say they have no religious affiliation.

Since 2007, the share of Christians in the general population has dropped from 78% to its present level of 63%. Nearly three-in-ten U.S. adults now say they are religiously unaffiliated, describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” up from 16% who did not identify with a religion 16 years ago. But Christians make up 88% of the voting members of the new 118th Congress being sworn in on Jan. 3 – only a few percentage points lower than the Christian share of Congress in the late 1970s. In the 96th Congress, which was in session in 1979-1980, 91% of members of Congress identified as Christian. ...

Both the Senate and the House are numerically dominated by Christians, with each chamber having a similar Protestant majority (57% in the House, 56% in the Senate). Looking at Protestant subgroups, Baptists make up a slightly larger share of the House (13%) than the Senate (10%). Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Congregationalists comprise larger shares in the Senate than in the House.

Catholics account for a slightly greater share of House than Senate members (28% and 26%, respectively). There are eight Orthodox Christians in the House, but none in the Senate.

Looking at non-Christian religions, Jews have a wider presence in the Senate (9%) than in the House (6%). There is one Buddhist in the House, Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, and one in the Senate, Democrat Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii. All of the Muslims, Hindus and Unitarian Universalists in Congress are in the House.

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January 8, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

The Top 10 Faith Posts Of 2022

  1. Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church), I Married the Wrong Person, and I’m So Glad I Did
  2. Kristen Waggoner (General Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom), 'Keep the Faith': How A Hostile Encounter With Yale Law Students Emboldened Me To Speak The Truth With Kindness
  3. Washington Times, U.S. District Court Orders Law School To Rescind No-Contact Orders Issued Against Christian Legal Society Faculty Advisor And Students Who Shared Their Religious Views With Another Student
  4. Timothy Keller (Founding Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City), Growing My Faith In The Face Of Death
  5. Timothy Keller (Founding Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City), The Fading Of Forgiveness — Tracing The Disappearance Of The Thing We Need Most
  6. Pepperdine Caruso Law News, New Religious Liberty Clinic Asks Supreme Court To Rule For High School Coach Fired For Praying On Football Field After Games
  7. Christianity Today, Ketanji Brown Jackson's Faith
  8. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), C.S. Lewis & Lin-Manuel Miranda: How I Found My Faith In Mere Christianity And Deepened It In Hamilton
  9. Anne Lamott (New York Times Op-Ed), I Pray. But I Don’t Want To See A High School Football Coach Praying At The 50-Yard Line.
  10. Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church), Did You Have A Hard Christmas? Jesus Did, Too.

Editor's Note:  If you would like to receive a weekly email each Sunday with links to the faith posts on TaxProf Blog, email me here.

January 8, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Pepperdine Religious Liberty Clinic Amicus Brief In Supreme Court Charter School Case Quoted in Wall Street Journal

Pepperdine Caruso Law’s Hugh and Hazel Darling Foundation Religious Liberty Clinic amicus brief to the Supreme Court in Charter Day School v. Peltier, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, A Federal Court Ruling Imperils the Charter-School Movement

A ruling in a federal court case could spell trouble for the charter-school movement. The case began in 2015 when the American Civil Liberties Union, representing three female students, sued our school.

The plaintiffs in Peltier v. Charter Day School, Inc. allege that our uniform policy—which requires girls to wear jumpers, skirts or “skorts” (skirtlike shorts) on most days—violates the girls’ rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. After a mixed decision in federal district court, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June for the plaintiffs.

By a 10-6 vote, the full court held that CDS is a “state actor,” constitutionally indistinguishable from government-run public schools. ... Because it lacks meaningful limiting principles, the Fourth Circuit opinion, if allowed to stand, could be applied to charter schools elsewhere, threatening their autonomy, subjecting them to the same rules, regulations and political machinations that have crippled government-run school systems. It would leave many low-income parents and students with no option other than poorly performing district schools.

Charter Day School Inc. has petitioned the Supreme Court to review the decision. Lawyers for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Va.—which is under the Fourth Circuit’s jurisdiction—argue in a friend-of-the-court brief that the Fourth Circuit’s “overbroad approach” could also threaten religious social-service providers that contract with states. “A Jewish adoption service could be named the defendant in a 14th Amendment action,” they write. “A Christian relief ministry could face a Title VII suit without the shield of the statute’s religious exemption. Or a Muslim vocational program could meet with an Establishment Clause challenge.”

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January 8, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education, Pepperdine Legal Ed | Permalink

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

New Year's Weekend Roundup

Monday, January 2, 2023

In The New Year, We Must View Time Through A Divine Lens: To Dust We Will Return

Christianity Today:  To Dust We Will Return, by Jen Pollock Michel (Author, In Good Time: 8 Habits for Reimagining Productivity, Resisting Hurry, and Practicing Peace (2023)): 

In Good Time 6In the New Year, we must view our time through a divine lens.

Just as there once was sacred space (in the medieval cathedrals, for example), there was also once sacred time. Kairos time, as the Greeks called it: this time existing beyond the veil of a day and the standardized unit of an hour. In fact, prior to the Reformation, we looked to the monks and nuns to renounce earthly pleasures and commit themselves to prayer. They lived the Lord’s time for the rest of us.

Today, of course, no one really lives the Lord’s time. All we’re left with is chronos time and the successive moments “which we try to measure and control in order to get things done.” ... All we’re left with is ordinary time—and the relentless goad of productivity. The untested assumption today is that getting things done is an infallible good, never mind the relative worth of those “things” and the predictable irritability involved in the striving.

Perhaps one of the most important discipleship endeavors today is reforming our relationship with time—and encouraging practices of living time more fittingly, more faithfully, more joyfully, more hopefully. The habits of “higher time” don’t have much to do with traditional time management advice, tips and tricks, or techniques and tools.

There is an important difference between improved executive functioning—and the practice of time—faith.

Habits of higher time have little to do with time-savvy. Calendaring may be involved, but mostly these habits involve a “labor of vision,” to borrow a phrase from another writer. Despite our best efforts at productivity, our lives will fog, and then evaporate, like winter breath. We will die.

As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field” (Isa. 40:6, ESV throughout). We will not finish all we’ve begun, will not accomplish all we’ve intended. Life will chill, the days shorten, and our bodies will catch in death’s wind and fall like autumn leaves.

Dust to dust. We will get no second chances on mortal time and its gifts.

If we fail to see time stretching beyond the final shudder, beyond the final slow wheeze of life, we are people to be pitied.

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January 2, 2023 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, January 1, 2023

WSJ Op-Ed: The Theological Underpinnings Of The 'Immaculate Reception'

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  About That ‘Immaculate Reception’, by Patrick Gray (Rhodes College):

It’s been half a century since professional-football fans were treated to one of the wildest finishes in the sport’s history. Yet few fans fully understand the religious undertones behind what is now known as the “Immaculate Reception.”

On Dec. 23, 1972, the Pittsburgh Steelers were trailing the Oakland Raiders 7-6 with 22 seconds left in their first-round playoff matchup. Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw dropped back to pass on fourth down and 10. Barely avoiding a sack, he flung a desperation pass to John “Frenchy” Fuqua halfway down the field. Oakland safety Jack “The Assassin” Tatum arrived as the pass reached Mr. Fuqua. His bruising hit sent the ball caroming 10 yards back. That’s when Steeler fullback Franco Harris scooped it out of the air right before it hit the turf and, without breaking stride, ran the rest of the 60 yards for the winning touchdown. A local announcer dubbed it the “Immaculate Reception.” ...

Most will recognize the name as a play on the Immaculate Conception but may not understand what this phrase means in Roman Catholic teaching. It isn’t a reference to Christmas or even to the unusual circumstances surrounding Jesus’ origins, of which the Virgin Mary was informed nine months earlier by the angel Gabriel, an episode called the Annunciation.

Rather, the Immaculate Conception deals with the birth of Mary herself.

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January 1, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Christian Student Group Threatens Lawsuit To Obtain Formal Recognition By UNH Law School

Concord Monitor, Student Group With Anti-LGBT Positions Alleges Religious Discrimination at UNH Law School:

UNH (2022)A Christian student group seeking formal recognition by the UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law is threatening legal action after alleging the school’s student governing body failed to act on its nomination.

The Free Exercise Coalition is seeking to form its inaugural chapter at UNH’s law school in Concord. Its mission is to “equip religious students in their free exercise of religion,” according to paperwork filed with the school. Board members of the group pledge to uphold “Judeo-Christian” religious traditions and beliefs, as well as oppose gay marriage, abortion and transgender people. ,,,

After submitting an application in November, the group’s members allege the school’s Student Bar Association has unnecessarily delayed its formal recognition and that a proposed faculty advisor for the group withdrew his support after facing pressure.

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January 1, 2023 in Faith, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Appellate Court Orders Yeshiva University To Recognize LGBTQ Student Group

Yeshiva Pride LogoHoward Friedman (Religion Clause), NY Appellate Court Says Yeshiva University Must Recognize LGBTQ Student Group:

In YU Pride Alliance v. Yeshiva University, (NY App. Div. Dec. 15, 2022), a New York state appellate court affirmed a trial court's decision that New York City's public accommodation law requires Yeshiva University to officially recognize as a student organization an LGBTQ group, YU Pride Alliance.

Yeshiva University Commentator, YU Loses in New York Appellate Court:

Katie Rosenfeld, the attorney for the Alliance, welcomed the decision. “We welcome today’s ruling … affirming that Yeshiva University cannot discriminate against its LGBTQ+ students by continuing its refusal to recognize the YU Pride Alliance and affirming the trial court’s ruling that YU must comply with the New York City Human Rights Law,” stated Rosenfeld in a statement provided to The Commentator.

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January 1, 2023 in Faith, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Saturday, December 31, 2022

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Top Ten 2Legal Education:

  1. Steve Epstein (Poyner Spruill, Raleigh, NC), Extreme Punishment: The Chilling True Story Of Dan Markel's Murder
  2. Paul Horwitz (Alabama), Should Deans Tell Their Faculty To Get Off Twitter And Get Back To Work?
  3. Sarah Isgur (Politico Magazine), I’m A Conservative Who Got Heckled At Yale Law School. But Not By Who You Think.
  4. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), July 2022 California Bar Exam Results: In-State Law Schools
  5. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), July 2022 California Bar Exam Results: Out-Of-State Law Schools
  6. Wall Street Journal, Students Sue USC For Reporting False Data To U.S. News To Goose Its Ranking
  7. John McWhorter (Columbia; New York Times Op-Ed), When a Racist Joke Does Not Merit Cancellation
  8. Derek Muller (Iowa), What Is The Endgame For Law Schools Boycotting The U.S. News Rankings?
  9. Alan Morrison (George Washington; National Law Journal Op-Ed), AALS Should Provide A Law School Guide To Supplant The U.S. News Rankings
  10. Josh Blackman (South Texas), ChatGPT And Law School Exams


  1. Charles Calomiris (Columbia; Wall Street Journal Book Review), The Myth Of American Income Inequality
  2. Census Bureau, New U.S. Census Data: Major Migration From Blue States To Red States
  3. SSRN, Tax Professor Rankings
  4. SSRN, The Top Five New Tax Papers
  5. Reuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Taxing Stock Buybacks As Dividends
  6. Bryan Camp (Texas Tech), A Year Of Lessons From The Tax Court (2022)
  7. Don Griswold (Bloomberg Tax), A ‘Social Harms’ Tax Can End The U.S. Gun Crisis, Constitutionally
  8. Ways & Means Committee, House Democrats Release Donald Trump's Tax Returns
  9. Dhammika Dharmapala (Chicago), The TCJA’s International Provisions: Conceptual Framework And Survey Of Evidence
  10. Josh Blackman (South Texas), Did The Ways & Means Committee Play The Supreme Court On Trump's Tax Returns?


  1. Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church), Did You Have A Hard Christmas? Jesus Did, Too.

December 31, 2022 in ABA Tax Section, Faith, Legal Education, Tax, Weekly Top 10 TaxProf Blog Posts | Permalink

Monday, December 26, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: Did You Have A Hard Christmas? Jesus Did, Too.

New York Times Op-Ed:  Having a Hard Christmas? Jesus Did, Too, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3[T]he holidays are often a lonely time for many of us. And in some ways for all of us. No matter how many family members or friends we have, no matter how delicious the food on the table, in quiet moments, many of us still feel a lack, a pang in our hearts, the recurrent ache of longing. We long for peace that we cannot conjure on our own. We long for justice and truth to win out. We long for a joy that isn’t quite so elusive. We long for relationships that last. No matter one’s political affiliation, race, income or education level, we share a common human yearning for a wholeness and flourishing that we do not yet know on this convulsed and suffering planet. ...

The radical claim that Christians make is that God has not remained aloof, transcendent, resplendent in majesty and glory, but became one of us, to be with us in the finitude, the bewilderment, the loneliness and longing of being human.

The analogy falls short. Christians believe that ... Jesus was not simply a human messenger visiting us in our suffering. He was God-made flesh, “infinity dwindled to infancy,” as the 19th-century poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote. The Christmas story tells us that therefore Emmanuel — which means “God with us” in Hebrew — is in fact with us in the whole of our actual lives, in our celebration and merrymaking, in our mundane days, and in sickness, sorrows, doubts, failures and disappointments.

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December 26, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, December 25, 2022

A Hallelujah Christmas

A Pepperdine Christmas

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

NY Times Op-Ed: Christmas And Miracles

Global medical

New York Times Op-Ed:  How Would You Prove That God Performed a Miracle?, by Molly Worthen (North Carolina):

Josh Brown the program in neuroscience at Indiana University Bloomington. He has published dozens of articles on topics like the neural basis of decision making in the brain. He has wire-rimmed glasses and a calm, methodical way of speaking. And after almost two decades of keeping relatively quiet, he is now speaking openly about his most surprising research finding: He believes that God miraculously healed him of a brain tumor.

Christmas is a time when miracles happen, according to the Hallmark cards and cartoon specials. But Dr. Brown and his wife, Candy Gunther Brown, who did her doctorate in religious studies at Harvard and is also a professor at Indiana, believe that God does intervene to cause miraculous healing, all the time. Partly to understand the healing that shocked their family, they have traveled as far afield as Brazil and Mozambique to collect documentation purporting to link Christian prayers and revivals to sudden, inexplicable medical recoveries. But is it possible to prove that a miracle happened? Is it dangerous to even try?

We are not talking about metaphorical, wow-what-luck, “I can’t believe I got that parking space” sorts of miracles. The Browns seek out stories of healings that are impossible to account for by natural means, based on current medical knowledge (although they believe that God mostly heals through modern medicine). “I don’t see a conflict between investigating matters of neuroscience and investigating claims of divine healing,” Josh Brown told me. “The question is always empirical: What does the evidence say about what happened?”

Polls suggest that about half of American scientists and three-quarters of doctors believe in a higher power. But the Browns are among the few who refuse to compartmentalize their faith — who treat God’s supernatural action as a legitimate object of research. ...

But the Browns’ experiences and research — not to mention the abundance of healing testimony from other witnesses, especially outside the West — deserve serious consideration. Watertight proof of divine causation may be an impossible goal, but the search for it forces us to confront the assumptions that prop up our own worldviews — whether one is a devout believer or a committed skeptic.

Candy Brown was nine months pregnant when her husband had a seizure in the middle of the night. “I went to bed, and when I woke up the next morning, I was in an ambulance,” he said. Two and a half weeks later, newborn in tow, they got his diagnosis: an apparent brain tumor called a glioma. (He provided The New York Times with medical records to support this account.) He was 30 years old. “Chemo, radiation and surgery don’t statistically prolong the life span with what I had. There was nothing to do but get ready to die, basically.” Doctors prescribed no treatment other than anticonvulsant medication to manage symptoms.

The Browns grew up in Christian families but not the sort that expected God to intervene ostentatiously in modern life. Still, he was desperate. He started traveling the country seeking out Christian healing revivals, dragging along his wife and baby daughter. “I needed to find out what was going on,” he said. “If there was any reality to it, I wanted a miracle.”

Candy Brown recalled more disturbing details: the morning after her husband’s diagnosis, they began to pray together, but mentioning the name of Jesus seemed to trigger a frightening physical response. “Josh shoots out of bed, starts turning somersaults,” she said. “I’d say, try worshiping Jesus, and he couldn’t say the name Jesus. I was thinking of the herd of pigs,” she said, recalling the unlucky swine run off a cliff by demon possession in the Gospels. “He was hoarse and exhausted. For that 45 minutes, there was such a palpably evil presence in that room that hated the name of Jesus. If I ever had doubted whether Jesus was real, I couldn’t now.”

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December 25, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: Christmas And Friendship

New York Times Op-Ed:  Why Jesus Loved Friendship, by by Peter Wehner (Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center; co-author, City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era):

WehnerThe enduring significance of Christmas is that it represents perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Christian faith — the concept of the incarnation, the belief that God took human form in Jesus. Theologians refer to the “hypostatic union” of Jesus, meaning the mysterious fusion of his divinity and his humanity.

The humanity of Jesus manifests itself in his moments of grief, agony, anger, frustration, joy and compassion. But one particular aspect of that humanity that has long intrigued me is his professed friendship with the rest of us.

In the New Testament, this point is made emphatically in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of John. The context is Jesus’ discourse with his disciples, in which he tells them that as God the father has loved him, so he loves them. His command to his disciples is that they love one another. Jesus then says this: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you.”

John Swinton, an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland and a professor at the University of Aberdeen, calls this shift from servant to friend a “profound act of renaming.”

I understand why the relationship between an all-powerful deity and less than all-powerful human beings — between the creator and the created, the perfect and the imperfect — would be defined by the latter’s awe, reverence and obedience. But a relationship between God and us — between God and me, between God and you — that is defined by true friendship is startling. Why would a divine, transcendent entity, referred to in the Scriptures as the everlasting God, the Lord Most High, not only condescend to become human but also initiate a relationship with us that is defined by mutual affection, intimacy and self-revelation? So I reached out to ministers and theologians to ask: What does it mean for Jesus to call us his friends? ...

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December 25, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

WaPo Op-Ed: Christmas And The Two Men Who Died In 2022 Taught Me How To Live

Washington Post Op-Ed:  The Wise Men Who Helped Me Understand Christmas, by E.J. Dionne Jr. (Brookings Institution):

Gerson ShieldsEvangelization is by nature an inclusive craft. It tries to unite rather than divide, to welcome, not exclude. It gathers people in.

None of these comes naturally to us these days — to Christians or anyone else — and two believers in my life who were among the best at embracing such imperatives left us in 2022. I fear for my own struggling faith in the absence of their courage to be countercultural in how they thought and led their lives.

My reflection on Christmas feels pathetically inadequate when compared with the stunning efforts in these spaces over the years by my colleague Michael Gerson. His final Christmas gift to us was a searingly honest essay as he was struggling with the cancer that would kill him.

“Christmas hope may well fall in the psychological category of wish fulfillment,” he wrote, unflinchingly acknowledging the power of the skeptic’s case upfront. “But that does not disprove the possibility of actually fulfilled wishes. On Christmas, we consider the disorienting, vivid evidence that hope wins. If true, it is a story that can reorient every human story. It means that God is with us, even in suffering.”

Gerson, facing death, did not pretend that hope was easy, only that it was possible and intellectually defensible. It is not a feeling but a virtue that requires discipline and determination.

We also lost Mark Shields, the wise and wisecracking political commentator. He taught an essential lesson by asserting that religious and political people alike were divided between those who hunted for heretics and those who sought converts.

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December 25, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times: A Christmas Conversation About Christ

New York Times:  A Christmas Conversation About Christ, by Nicholas Kristof:

MooreThis is the latest installment in my occasional series of conversations about Christianity. ... Here’s my interview with the Rev. Dr. Russell Moore, a former senior official of the Southern Baptist Convention who is now editor in chief of Christianity Today

Nicholas Kristof: Merry Christmas! I’m full of admiration for Jesus’ teachings, which strike me as left of center — I say that just to needle you a bit! — but I do have trouble swallowing the miracles. So let’s start with the Nativity. Why insist today on Mary’s virginity?
The Rev. Dr. Russell Moore: That’s a foundational Christian belief. As to the contrast between the miracles and Jesus’ teaching, I would argue that the teachings are actually the harder of the two to reconcile with the world we know. “Love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” are really hard to comprehend. That’s why you sometimes hear Christians dismissing the Sermon on the Mount as “weakness” or “not realistic” in times like these. Some people try to accept Jesus’ ethics while dismissing his miracles, and some try to do the reverse. The Gospel says we should accept both. ...

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December 25, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink