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Religion in the news

World issues and religious conflict

‘Inside the mind of terror’

UCSB Professor Mark Juergensmeyer interviews terrorists from around the world — from the Aum Shinrikyo group in Japan to jihadists in the Middle East and the U.S. See article. Also see, “Inside the Global Jihad” with Steven Simon.

Graphic ‘clash of civilizations’

Women across Europe protest conservative Islam in a “topless jihad.” The movement follows a trajectory of antagonism between Europeans and their Muslim immigrants, as described by author Christopher Caldwell. See story.

Backing off on free speech

In the Los Angeles Daily Journal, William Slomanson suggests that the U.N. Security Council could order its member states to, at least temporarily, bar global access to “Innocence of Muslims.” Should the U.S. delegate its First Amendment freedoms?

Clash of civilizations?

The slaying of four members of the American diplomatic mission in Libya, in retaliation for a video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad, reveals again the persistent chasm between the Islamic world and the West. See discussion on the issue by author Christopher Caldwell.

‘Terror’ again?

The recent foiled bomb plot points to ongoing challenges in curtailing attacks by extremist groups. Steven Simon of the Council on Foreign Relations discusses what motivates terrorists. Also, Prof. Mark Juergensmeyer “Gets inside the minds of religious militants.”

‘Terror’ again?

The recent foiled bombing plot points to ongoing challenges in curtailing attacks by extremist groups.

France aims at Islamic veils

A French parliamentary committee has proposed a ban in hospitals, schools, government offices and on public transport. It also recommends that anyone showing visible signs of "radical religious practice" should be refused residence cards and citizenship. "The wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our republic. This is unacceptable. We must condemn this excess," the report said. See the Web Sage primer, “Faith and Conscience in America.”

Swiss ban minarets

Swiss voters voters pass a referendum – by a 57.5 vote – banning the defining feature of mosque architecture. The action has sparked an intense debate throughout Europe, which is struggling to cope with the assimmilation of large numbers of Muslim immigrants. Some say the move is necessary to curtail Islamization of European society; others say the action strikes at the heart of religious liberty. The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, discusses Muslims in America and Europe on pages 91-92.

Islam At The Crossroads Of History

“The targets and casualties of Muslim violence are overwhelmingly Muslim, rather than American or European, and the toll in destroyed property and economic havoc is Muslim by an even more disproportionate margin. This is not a war between the mandarins of the Atlantic Alliance and the mullahs. It is a civil war within the ranks of Islam, fought across two hemispheres.” — By Frank Viviano, June 18, 2009. See Web Sage article, “Beyond the Clash of Civilizations.”

‘Calm of civilizations’

President Barack Obama attempts to restart America's relations with the Muslim world. The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, discusses "the clash of civilizations" and Muslims in America on pages 91-92. See the Web Sage article, “Beyond the Clash of Civilizations.”

Free exercise or fraud?

A French court convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud, fining the French branch $888,000 for swindling former members, but stopped short of shutting down the group. In June, state prosecutor Maud Morel-Coujard had demanded that the church be dissolved and its bookstore shut down. But because of a change in the law after the case had begun, the government could not disband such a group for a conviction of fraud.

Even the Romans argue over Nativities

The new center-right mayor of Rome erected a creche on the Piazza del Campidoglio, a hilltop square, which competes for attention with the Vatican's popular display. Religious Liberty in America covers the issue of Christmas displays on public property and compares the U.S. system of religious liberty with European nations. See news release.

Civil religion

‘City on a hill’ — shut down

Ronald Reagan was famous for his “city on a hill” imagery, and he was also famous for saying “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” What exactly did he mean by these things, and how do they square with one another in light of the recent federal shutdown? See article on civil religion.


In a New York Times op-ed, Russian President Vladimir Putin makes a pointed critique at “American Exceptionalism.” See the WebSage article on this theme. Alse see related articles on civil religion.

Martin Luther King and civil religion

The civil rights leader's words are so well known, the types of rhetoric he employed may be overlooked. Read about Dr. King's use of civil religion and also the prophetic tradition. Also see primers on the African-American church.

Invoking God in America

Joseph Margulies of Northwestern University Law School analyzes when civil religion is used for good and when it is used for bad. The connection between civil rights and civil religion vs. the invocation God and nationalism reflects this dichotomy.

The logic of Lincoln

On Nov. 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the site of the Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania. This speech is considered a model of civil religion. Read more about Lincoln's rhetoric and logic here.

‘New birth’

On July 3, 1863, the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg ended in a major victory for the Union. Marking the event, President Lincoln said, “this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”


This week’s Time magazine features a cover story on the “state of the American dream.” On SageLaw, public intellectual Tony Sherrill explores the meaning of the American dream in terms of civil religion. Also see the primer, “Following the Contours of Civil Religion in America.”

‘Greed, arrogance, hubris’

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon spoke candidly before the Senate Banking Committee. His words were reminiscent of the fictional CEO in “Margin Call,” who admitted, “We can't help ourselves.” See SageLaw article, The Gospel of Prosperity vs. Civil Religion.


JPMorgan Chase's $2 billion gamble and loss puts on display, yet again, business practices that led to the 2008 economic meltdown.

Self-interest 'wrongly understood'

Former Fed chief Alan Greenspan told a Congressional committee that he was at a loss to explain how the financial system broke down. Some say the financial crisis was the result of poor regulatory structures; others maintain the financial markets were overregulated. Author Claire Berlinski postulates that the crisis was a result of a moral breakdown. Religious Liberty in America deals with civil religion and capitalism on pages 53-55. See press release.

May day and immigration

May 1 has become a day of rallies over the immigration issue. See how this issue connects with civil religion.

Clergy omitted from 9/11 ceremony

“In a nation of unprecedented religious diversity, the United States once managed to navigate religion in public life with relatively generic acknowledgments of the sacred — a tradition often referred to as civil religion. But now, Professor Alan Wolfe said, ‘the civil religion, those informal kinds of agreements, can't work if everyone is going to be litigious.’”

May Day, immigration and civil religion

Now an annual tradition, thousands of marchers took to the streets in U.S. cities to rally for immigration reform. The immigration debate has raised the core questions: What does it mean to be an American? What are American values? Does God bless America, or que Dios bendiga los Estados Unidos? The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, discusses the immigration debate in the context of civil religion. See press release.

Religious attitudes

L.A. Archbishop decries ‘secularization’

“The result of this deliberate strategy of secularization is that more and more of our brothers and sisters today live without any awareness of their need for God,” Archbishop José H. Gómez wrote in a Feb. 15, 2010 pastoral letter. Gomez's sentiment was echoed by his mentor, Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who criticized the “harsh new sense of the separation of Church and state” ushered in by the Supreme Court's 1947 decision in Everson v. Board of Education. See Los Angeles Times news analysis.

Americans ‘mix and match’ beliefs

Many people attend services outside of their own religion, and blend Christianity with Eastern and New Age beliefs, according to a nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life. Americans have the idea that religion and spirituality are a matter of choice, according to Paul Lichterman, a professor of sociology and religion at USC.

California split down middle

“Church attendance, which political analysts see as a key indicator of political behavior – the more often one attends services, the more reliably conservative the vote – is starkly different in California: In inland areas, almost four in 10 voters said they went to services at least once a week, while three in 10 coastal voters made that claim.”

111th Congress religiously diverse

Catholics, representing about 24 percent of the U.S. population, now constitute about 30 percent of Congress, according to a recent analysis by Congressional Quarterly and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The shift reflects greater religious diversity both across the nation and on Capitol Hill. The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, documents how America has accommodated religious diversity over the centuries. See news release.

Losing their religion

The percentage of Americans who do not claim a religious identity has nearly doubled since 1990, growing to 15 percent of the populations last year, according to the American Religious Identification Survey. This trend is particularly evident in New England, where the Puritans once held a grip on religious establishments. Nonetheless, religiosity in the United States remains high when compared to other industrialized nations, as is discussed in chapters 1 and 2 of Religious Liberty in America. See news release.

‘The obvious often escapes us’

The purpose-driven pastor

The senior managing editor of Christianity Today, Mark Galli, said megachurch pastor Rick Warren "has that gift of being able to popularize ideas that are in some ways commonplace." Religious Liberty in America discusses religion and marketing on pages 19-20. See news release.

Religion in the modern world

Author Adrian Wooldridge says the U.S. has "gotten it right" when it comes to balancing religion in public life. The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, shows how the U.S. manages the issue through the First Amendment. See news release.

Book reviews

Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul

Book reviews of Joyce E. Chaplin's biography of Roger Williams in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Also see “A Puritan's War Against Religion.”

Whistling Dixie

Matthew J. Franck reviews Kevin Gutzman's Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution.