"US Supreme Court West Facade" by UpstateNYer is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

In one of the final rulings before the Supreme Court’s summer recess, the court found that it was unconstitutional to deny civil funds to a Missouri church on the basis that it was a religious institution. Trinity Lutheran Church applied for a grant that would re-surface its playground with recycled tires, creating a safer rubber surface for its preschool children to play on. Forty-four non-profit organizations applied for the grants, and the church’s application ranked fourth among them, but it was denied the grant on the grounds that it was a religious institution and thereby is an ineligible beneficiary of these public benefits.

"Example of Single-Use Zoning Regulations" is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Wikipedia)

As part of a legal settlement, Bernards Township, a small, affluent town in central New Jersey, will pay a 3.25-million-dollar settlement to a local Islamic group.  The Justice Department filed suit. Together with the Islamic group, the department alleged that the township had changed their zoning laws to prevent a mosque from being built to service the area’s Muslim population.  

"Satan Before The Lord" by Corrado Giaquinto is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikipedia)

Arturo Sousa, the Superior General of the Society for Jesus (Jesuits) recently said in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo that, “we have formed symbolic figures such as the devil to express evil.” His words seem to imply that Satan is not a real being, but just a symbol; the devil would be more akin to Lex Luthor than Adolf Hitler, i.e., a fictional character.

"Kindergarten" by Charlie Vinz is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

In order to combat the “pervasive and underreported” bullying of Muslim children in public schools, the San Diego public school district’s board has launched a campaign to fight Islamophobia. As one of the largest public school districts in the country, San Diego has set an important precedent for other districts. For this reason, the decision, voted 4-0 on April 4, has received both praise and backlash on social media.

"Meeting with President of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev" by the Kremlin is licensed under Creative Commons (via Google Images)

In April 1951, 9,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses boarded the Trans-Siberian railway and were sent to the far eastern corner of Russia, where they would effectively disappear. In both Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses were accused of being unpatriotic. Adherents to this sect of Christianity don’t vote, don’t attend patriotic statements that glorify violence, and don’t participate in war. In Nazi Germany, they refused to profess “Heil Hitler”, and now under Vladimir Putin, they refuse to join the Russian Orthodox Church or publicly oppose Syrian rebels. On April 20, Russia’s supreme court labeled Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist group, putting them on the same level as other militant extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and IS. Russia’s supreme court ordered that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Russian headquarters be closed, as well as their 395 local chapters.

Easter was recently celebrated by Christians all over the world. 2017 was one of those rare years when the Julian and Gregorian calendars coincide in their timing of Easter; therefore, the Eastern and Western Churches celebrated Jesus’ resurrection on the same day.

Yet, a recent BBC poll revealed that a quarter of British Christians do not believe in the resurrection. We do not have poll results for the rest of the world. The United Kingdom is among the most secularized countries in the world, so the results are probably not representative of other countries. Yet, the modernizing and secularizing tendency seems to be spreading in the rest of the world, and it would be safe to assume that the percentage of people that do not believe in Jesus’ resurrection is on the rise.

"Pope Francis" by Alfredo Borba is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

With two deeply conservative predecessors (John Paul II and Benedict XVI), Pope Francis has raised a lot of eyebrows over the years. He has not made any significant reform (unlike, say, John XXIII), but his populist style has definitely struck a chord of sympathy amongst many Catholics. John Paul II was a populist as well, but he was closer to the original version of populism, gathering huge crowds all over the world. Francis, on the other hand, is not so apt at crowd gathering, but he is apt at appearing to be in touch with common folks. He has repeatedly washed people’s feet (in remembrance of Jesus’ humbleness), and he is very warm to journalists and visitors. Unlike Benedict XVI, he does not seem to be too interested in pompous rituals or luxurious protocols. We may never know whether these gestures are genuine, or a calculated political image; they are most likely something in between.

" Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker during a PTL broadcast (circa 1986)" by Peter K. Levy via Flickr (Public Domain)

What if I told you that you’d have a miracle at this time tomorrow if you shouted “Fear not!” three times, counted down from ten and then called and sent money to a television network?

These were the exact instructions of one of the ministers during this year’s Praise-A-Thon, one of the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s many fundraising efforts that elicits donations across the country annually; the television network is one of the leaders in televised ministry and has provided an outlet for recorded and live services. Stakes are usually much higher, however, for contemporary televangelists; though their heyday has undoubtedly passed, these ministers still make millions in their pursuit of televised salvation.

"Mujer musulmana en Pamukkale, Turquia" by Edgardo W. Olivera is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

On Tuesday, December 6th, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech calling for a ban on the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women. Earlier this year, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere also called for a ban on the full veil in public places. In defense of the ban, politicians appeal to society cohesion, and adherence to the values of Germany.