America has become the object of its own collective worship, with Trump the Herod of its civic religion. But loyalty to God must always beat loyalty to the stateThe civil religion of the United States of America has long been the United States of America, with a thin veneer of Protestant Christianity to camouflage its nauseating liturgies of self-love. Its object of veneration is the flag. Its saints are war veterans. America is the promised land and to be an American is to be uniquely blessed by God. Little wonder that the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, has proved so threatening to the self-image of this bastardised inversion of the Christian faith.Two years ago, and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Kaepernick refused to stand for that unsingable dirge, the Star Spangled Banner. How could he participate in country worship when that same country was so corrupted by injustice and violence against people of colour? But to a nation that has itself become the object of its own collective worship, disrespecting the American hymn is the worst of all heresies. Thus Donald Trump, the Herod of American civic religion, recently called on football club owners to sack any “son of a bitch” that refused to stand for the national anthem. Within days, Kaepernick had been joined by hundreds of other NFL players who also refused to stand and instead, as the phrase now goes, “took the knee”. Soon after, a photograph of Martin Luther King taking the knee went viral, as if his participation in this newly fashionable practice was a great surprise. No surprise, people – it’s called prayer. And it’s been a form of protest for centuries. Continue reading…

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Today two same-sex couples and a Michigan taxpayer filed suit in a Michigan federal district court challenging the state’s practice of contracting out foster-care and adoptive placement to social service agencies that apply religious criteria in placing children.  Statutes passed the state legislature in 2015 approve this practice.  The complaint (full text) in Dumont v. Lyon, (ED MI, filed 9/20/2017), alleges that religiously affiliated agencies’ practice of turning away qualified families on the basis of sexual orientation, violates the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.  ACLU issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.

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In June, Equality Michigan wrote the Michigan Civil Rights Commission asking it to issue an interpretative statement finding that the ban on sex discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations in Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act covers discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. (Full text of letter.)  As reported by MLive, on Monday the Commission held a lengthy hearing on the request, but took no final action after an Assistant Attorney General told the Commission that lacks legal authority to issue an interpretive statement. A frustrated Commission voted 5-2 to ask the Attorney General for a formal opinion on its authority.

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By a vote of 5-2, last week an expanded panel of Israel’s High court of Justice handed down a ruling which moves toward breaking the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly on designation of which restaurants in the country are kosher.  As reported by Haaretz and Arutz Sheva, the ruling stops short of allowing alternative private kashrut certification. It upholds the Rabbinate’s position that Israel’s Kosher Fraud Law prohibits a business from representing itself as

In Lifter v. Cleveland State University, (6th Cir., Sept. 12, 2017), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an Ohio federal district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit by two former Cleveland State University Law School professors (husband and wife) who claim that the dean had retaliated against them because of the husband’s activity in unionizing the faculty.  Plaintiff Sheldon Gelman argued that part of the retaliation was awarding him a raise of only $666 for the year.  He contended that not only did he deserve more, but that the dean chose the $666 figure as an intentional invocation of the biblical