Yesterday afternoon, President Trump met at the White House with a group of inner city pastors. The White House has posted a transcript of remarks by the President and a number of the pastors at the meeting. They focused primarily on issues of economic development and prison reform.
In Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, (9th Cir., July 30, 2018), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a lengthy opinion applied the Act of State Doctrine to reject the attempt by plaintiff to recover two oil paintings of Biblical characters taken by the Nazis from her father-in-law in a forced sale. At issue are Renaissance masterworks painted by Cranach the Elder—
Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered remarks (full text) at today’s Department of Justice Religious Liberty Summit. He said in part:I want to thank all of you for your courage and insight to speak out for religious liberty.Let us be frank.A dangerous movement, undetected by many, is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom. There can be no doubt. This is no little matter. It must be confronted and defeated.This election, and much that has flowed from it, gives us a rare opportunity to arrest these trends. Such a reversal will not just be done with electoral victories, but by intellectual victories. We have gotten to the point where courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law; where ministers are fearful to affirm, as they understand it, holy writ from the pulpit; and where one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them a “hate group” on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs.This President and this Department of Justice are determined to protect and even advance this magnificent heritage….[I]n recent years, the cultural climate in this country—and in the West more generally—has become less hospitable to people of faith. Many Americans have felt that their freedom to practice their faith has been under attack.And it’s easy to see why. We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives. We’ve seen U.S. Senators ask judicial and executive branch nominees about dogma—even though the Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for public office. We’ve all seen the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips.Americans from a wide variety of backgrounds are concerned about what this changing cultural climate means for the future of religious liberty in this country.President Trump heard this concern.I believe this unease is one reason that he was elected. In substance, he said he respected people of faith and he promised to protect them in the free exercise of their faith. He declared we would say “Merry Christmas” again….Today I am announcing our next step: the Religious Liberty Task Force, to be co-chaired by the Associate Attorney General and the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy—Jesse [Panuccio] and Beth [Williams].The Task Force will help the Department fully implement our religious liberty guidance by ensuring that all Justice Department components are upholding that guidance in the cases they bring and defend, the arguments they make in court, the policies and regulations they adopt, and how we conduct our operations. That includes making sure that our employees know their duties to accommodate people of faith.As the people in this room know, you have to practice what you preach. We are also going to remain in contact with religious groups across America to ensure that their rights are being protected. We have been holding listening sessions and we will continue to host them in the coming weeks.This administration is animated by that same American view that has led us for 242 years: that every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith in the public square.
According to an ADF press release, the U.S. Department of Justice will host a Religious Liberty Summit this morning. It will be live streamed at this link beginning at 9:30 AM. The Summit
Today’s New York Times Magazine carries a lengthy profile of Baba Ramdev, holy man and billionaire who has increasing political power in India. Here is an excerpt:Ramdev has been a prominent voice on the Hindu right, and his tacit endorsement during the landmark 2014 campaign helped bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power…. Although Modi campaigned heavily on promises to reform India’s economy and fight corruption, there were frequent dog whistles to the Hindu nationalist base, some of them coordinated with Ramdev. A month before Modi’s landslide victory, a trust controlled by Ramdev released a video in which senior leaders of Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) … appeared alongside him with a signed document setting out nine pledges. These included the protection of cows — animals held sacred in Hinduism — and a broad call for Hindu nationalist reforms of the government, the courts, cultural institutions and education….But Ramdev is far more than a useful holy man. Even beyond his political patrons, Ramdev is the perfect messenger for a rising middle class that is hungry for religious assertion and fed up with the socialist, rationalist legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first post-independence leader. Ramdev has led vastly popular campaigns against corruption, donning the mantle of swadeshi, or Indian economic nationalism, to cast foreign companies as neocolonial villains. In a sense, Ramdev has changed Hinduism itself. His blend of patriotic fervor, health and religious piety flows seamlessly into the harder versions of Hindu nationalism, which are often openly hostile to India’s 172 million Muslims. Although Ramdev prefers to speak of Indian solidarity, his B.J.P. allies routinely invoke an Islamic threat and rally crowds with vows to build temples on the sites of medieval mosques.In his own way, Ramdev is India’s answer to Donald Trump, and there is much speculation that he may run for prime minister himself.
In Adorers of the Blood of Christ v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, (3d Cir., July 25, 2018), the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a RFRA challenge by an Order of Catholic nuns (the