Ep. 02: Supreme Court case on gov’t funding of religion: Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue

Feb 27, 2020

Why is religion treated differently by our Constitution? In a blockbuster year at the Supreme Court, BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler and General Counsel Holly Hollman examine one case that could have major implications for religious liberty law. They dig deeper into Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (starting at 1:50), talk about what people mean when they say “Blaine amendments,” explain the footnote of a previous decision that came up during oral arguments (18:20), and share their predictions for the decision.  They also point out the links between this case and other events, including a troubling proposal released by President Trump during his State of the Union address (29:31). In the final segment, Amanda and Holly review how Supreme Court news continues to dominate religious liberty conversations and note how religion is being treated in news about the coronavirus (39:57).

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Show notes:

Segment 1: Understanding Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (starting at 00:40)

Visit BJConline.org/Espinoza to learn more about this case, including BJC’s brief and how “no aid” provisions (meaning “no aid to religion”) protect religious liberty.

BJC partnered with Professor Steven Green on our Espinoza brief. Amanda mentions his earlier appearance on the BJC Podcast series on Christian nationalism – you can listen to that interview at this link.


Segment 2: Oral argument in Espinoza, the Trinity Lutheran footnote, and President Trump’s State of the Union proposal (starting at 13:54)

Learn more about the 2017 Trinity Lutheran case and BJC’s brief defending the “no aid” rule at BJConline.org/TrinityLutheran.

Holly mentions her column titled “Trinity Lutheran Church: Decidedly narrow, deeply troubling,” which you can read at this link.


Segment 3: Where did we see religion in our world? Supreme Court news and the coronavirus (starting at 33:57)

Each week, Amanda and Holly will talk about where they see religion in the world around us and what they are reading.

Amanda mentioned the news that the Supreme Court will hear another case impacting religious liberty:  Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. You can read more about the case in BJC’s “Latest News” section.

Holly mentioned news about the coronavirus, particularly how stories are shedding light on various religious communities and their responses to the crisis. Read more in the article Infectious Religion by William Schweiker, published by the University of Chicago Divinity School’s Sightings.

Holly also mentioned the NPR article titled New York City Church Fights Fears Over The Coronavirus, featuring a conversation with Pastor Stephen Ko of the New York Chinese Alliance Church. He is also a doctor who used to be an infectious disease expert at the Center for Disease Control. Pastor Ko wrote a commentary for Christianity Today titled Coronavirus Fears Mean We Need More Communion, Not Less.

Amanda mentioned Pastor George Mason of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, who had a church member with Ebola in 2014. You can read more about his story in this Dallas Morning News article.

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