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Top 10 Religious Liberty and Church-State Developments of 2022


Each year in December, I attempt to pick the most important church-state and religious liberty developments of the past year.  My choices are based on the importance of the pick to law or policy, regardless of whether the development has garnered significant media attention. The selection of top stories obviously involves a good deal of subjective judgment. Here is a somewhat different list of top stories and newsmakers from the Religion News Association, the professional association of religion journalists. I welcome e-mail comment at religionclause@gmail.com on my choices. Here are my Top Ten picks:

1. In the Dobbs decision, the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade after premature leak of Court’s opinion. Newly imposed abortion restrictions are challenged on Free Exercise grounds by clergy and religious organizations with pro-choice beliefs. Some states act to insure abortion rights.

2. In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, Supreme Court repudiates the Lemon test for Establishment Clause violations.

3. In Carson v. Makin, Supreme Court says exclusion of sectarian schools from tuition reimbursement program violates Free Exercise clause.

4. Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. increase. White House creates inter-agency group to counter antisemitism.

5. Numerous lawsuits seek religious exemptions from COVID vaccine mandates. Congress in National Defense Authorization Act orders military to rescind its mandate.

6. Congress enacts Respect for Marriage Act, codifying recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages.

7. Accommodation of transgender students and treatment of minors with gender dysphoria remain highly charged political and legal issues.

8. Battles continue over whether anti-discrimination provisions of Title IX, the Affordable Care Act, and some state laws cover discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and scope of exemptions from those provisions for religious institutions.

9. In Ramirez v. Collier, Supreme Court recognizes rights of pastor to lay hands on the prisoner and audibly pray with him during his execution.

10. In Shurtleff v. City of Boston, Supreme Court holds that group’s free speech rights were violated by refusing to allow it to briefly fly its Christian flag from City Hall flagpole which is open to other groups for their ceremonies.


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