Sarah Posner invites guests from across the ideological spectrum to discuss breaking news and three-alarm issues at the intersection of politics and religion.
On The Posner Show, Sarah speaks with Patti about the Extraordinary General Synod taking place this week in Rome. Patti argues that conservative fears that the synod will produce radical changes are misplaced. She traces the church’s position on contraception to decisions made during the last synod in 1980. Nonetheless, she says, a midterm report from this synod contained some surprising revelations, notably signals that the church may stop referring to homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered” and to unmarried couples as “living in sin.” What did a German bishop really say about African bishops and homosexuality? What does Patricia’s book have to say about a role for pro-choice Catholics? Finally: How Francis’s synod represents very “modest proposals.”
Sarah talks to Lydia Bean, author of The Politics of Evangelical Identity, a study of how white evangelical political identity is shaped by grassroots “folk theory” about what it means to be a good Christian. Lydia explains why evangelicals might react differently to people coming from outside their religious “tent.” She talks about why evangelicals see their messaging on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage as compassionate, even when outsiders may not. They discuss the economic differences between American and Canadian evangelicals on issues like socialized medicine. Plus: Why “faith-based” campaigning by Democrats falls flat, and how a new set of rhetorical tools can change that.
On The Posner Show, Sarah and Brent consider the question: Is liberal Zionism dead? They debate whether the latest Gaza war is a turning point in American Jewish attitudes towards Israel. They discuss the rise of dissenting pro-Israel groups like #IfNotNow that are challenging the American Jewish establishment, and even challenging the more liberal group J Street. Brent argues these groups will force change in the American Jewish establishment, but that it will be gradual. Plus: What about American rabbis?
On The Posner Show, Sarah and Kara discuss a letter urging President Obama not to include a religious exemption in a forthcoming executive order barring federal contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Kara explains why she signed the letter, and why she doesn’t believe there should be a new religious exemption. They discuss how the proposed order would interact with existing rules granting religious exemptions to religiously-affiliated contractors. And they reflect on how the Hobby Lobby case might affect provider refusals in the areas of abortion, contraception, and assisted reproductive technology. Plus: How did the boss’s religious rights come to take precedence over those of his workers?
In a follow-up to last week’s discussion of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, Sarah talks with Caroline about the Court’s unusual order on Thursday in Wheaton College v. Burwell. Does this injunction contradict the ruling in Hobby Lobby? Caroline makes the case against Wheaton College’s “facilitation argument” that filling out a form that triggers the insurance company to provide contraception coverage creates a substantial religious burden. How will the lower courts now rule on the raft of similar cases? If non-profits refuse to fill out the form, will sending the government an e-mail suffice? Plus: How the Court got Congress’s intention with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act wrong.
On The Posner Show, Sarah talks to Caroline about the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby. Is the decision a narrow one, as the majority insists, or one of “startling breadth,” as Justice Ginsburg charges in her dissent? They discuss how the decision affects religious non-profits that have also challenged the contraception mandate. How did the decision expand the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? Will HHS now step in to provide contraception coverage for Hobby Lobby employees? Might some companies try to game the system to save money? Did the government make a mistake by not challenging Hobby Lobby’s claim that emergency contraception and IUDs are abortifacients? Plus: How Hobby Lobby will affect gay rights cases.
On The Posner Show, Sarah talks with the Rev. Welton Gaddy, who recently announced his retirement as president of the Interfaith Alliance. They discuss Welton’s history of advocating for religious diversity and religious freedom, after he witnessed first-hand the Religious Right’s takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. Welton provides a brief history of the politicizing of religion from the “pseudo-piety” of the Clinton impeachment through the Obama administration’s refusal to change Bush-era rules on faith-based initiatives. Did Obama fear crossing “the Christian establishment” in enacting the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate? Welton argues that the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of legislative prayer undermines authentic religion. Plus: Why Welton is scared about the state of religious freedom in America.
On The Posner Show, Sarah and Kathryn discuss the latter’s new article on sexual abuse at Bob Jones University. How do evangelical institutions handle sexual assault? They discuss how victims of sexual assault are blamed for having their own sins, while their attackers often go unpunished. Kathryn explains why Bob Jones brought in an outside group, GRACE, to address the problem. Sarah notes a contrast with the Catholic Church in terms of not closing ranks to protect abusers. Can GRACE change the way the evangelical movement deals with sexual assault?
On The Posner Show, Sarah talks with Matt about the fallout from Gov. Brewer’s veto of Arizona’s SB 1062. Matt explains why, contrary to what many conservatives claim, the failure of the bill was not an example of persecution of Christians. Are religious institutions poised to lose their tax-exempt status over gay rights? They debate whether photographers should be able to refuse service to gay couples, and Matt explains why, if he were a photographer, he would refuse. If the Supreme Court strikes down bans on same-sex marriage, will conservative Christians retreat to monastic-like communities? Sarah and Matt debate whether marriage is a broken institution. Plus: Is the persecution narrative a winning strategy for the Christian right?
On The Posner Show, Sarah talks to Jeff about his new article on the rise of violence and discrimination against LGBT people in Russia. They discuss the role that the American religious right has played in encouraging homophobia in Russia. What does it mean to say that Russia’s “sexual sovereignty” is threatened? And what the heck is “gay propaganda,” anyway? Sarah is shocked that homophobic vigilantes bring their children with them to terrorize gays. Are there any legal consequences for such thuggery? Finally, will the Sochi Olympics draw more international attention to Russian homophobia?
On The Posner Show, Sarah talks with Anthea about Pope Francis’s new appointment of cardinals. Anthea argues that by appointing no Americans, Francis was working toward parity, and breaking an Italian “cabal.” Has the media created a “fantasy pope?” While Francis is like the new CEO of a company, there are some ways in which business at the Vatican proceeds as usual. Why did Francis appoint so many cardinals from the developing world? Plus: How the US Conference of Catholic Bishops acts like evangelicals.
On The Posner Show, Sarah talks with Katie about the successes and challenges of the Sunday Assembly, the “atheist megachurch.” How did the Sunday Assembly spread from East London to forty cities around the world? What caused a split between the Sunday Assembly and a group in New York, which complained about prohibitions on talking about atheism? They discuss why atheist church is appealing—or not—to atheists. Katie says when you create a new church, schisms are inevitable. What is the role of charismatic leaders in keeping churches afloat? Finally: What does the future hold for atheist churches?