S5, Ep. 27: 100 episodes and 100,000 downloads

Amanda and Holly take listener questions on the 100th episode of this podcast

May 2, 2024

For the 100th episode of Respecting Religion, Amanda Tyler and Holly Hollman answer listener questions, ranging from the law surrounding the tax-exempt status of religious institutions to their favorite Supreme Court justices. They also look at some of the big Supreme Court decisions and the shifts on the Court since this podcast began four years ago, sharing some of their favorite and most impactful episodes.

Segment 1 (starting at 00:38): How did we get to 100 episodes?

The podcast series on the dangers of Christian nationalism ran in 2019, and it’s available on the BJC Podcast feed, and you can see all of the episodes on this page of the Christians Against Christian Nationalism website. 

Holly and Amanda mentioned some of their favorite episodes, including:

You can see a list of every single episode at BJConline.org/RespectingReligion


Segment 2 (starting at 19:06): Questions on tax-exempt status, tough conversations, and more

Holly mentioned the 1983 case of Bob Jones University v. United States. You can read the decision here.

For more about the Respect for Marriage Act, check out episode 7 from season 4: Does the Respect for Marriage Act protect religious liberty?

For more on the Johnson Amendment and the way it protects churches and other groups who are eligible for the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, visit this page on our website. Amanda and Holly also discussed it a bit on episode 4 of season 2: Grading the Trump administration on religious freedom.

Holly mentioned episode 6 from season 3: Challenging misinformation: How to have productive conversations with friends and family.


Segment 3 (starting at 34:07): Questions on podcast recommendations, favorite Supreme Court justices, and more

The podcasts mentioned by Amanda and Holly were:

Strict Scrutiny

Prosecuting Donald Trump 

The Ezra Klein Show

Another Mother Runner


Ten Percent Happier

Amanda and Holly discussed being interns at BJC. The internship program is ongoing – learn more about the opportunities by visiting BJConline.org/internships

Respecting Religion is made possible by BJC’s generous donors. You can support these conversations with a gift to BJC.

Transcript: Season 5, Episode 27: 100 episodes and 100,000 downloads (some parts of this transcript have been edited for clarity)   


HOLLY: Well, Amanda, let’s open the phone lines now and hear from our callers. (Laughing.)
AMANDA: (Laughing.) Wait. What are we doing here, Holly?
HOLLY: Oh, wait, I forgot. Okay.


Segment 1: How did we get to 100 episodes (starting at 00:23)

AMANDA: Welcome to Respecting Religion, a BJC podcast series where we look at religion, the law, and what’s at stake for faith freedom today. I’m Amanda Tyler, executive director of BJC.

HOLLY: And I’m General Counsel Holly Hollman. Welcome to a special edition of Respecting Religion. It’s our 100th episode of this podcast series —

AMANDA: Woo-hoo!

HOLLY: — and we are “woo-hoo-ing” it today. Seriously, we all need milestones to mark, and today we’re doing that. Amanda, I’m so glad you’re here and that we’re here together to celebrate what we’ve accomplished and what we have learned and what we continue to learn through Respecting Religion and, as promised, to engage with our listeners by taking their questions.

So it’s not something that we would not necessarily have predicted when we started this experiment, but over five seasons and 99 episodes, we’ve released more than 67 hours of content, and —


HOLLY: — we’ve been downloaded more than 100,000 times. We’ve had 30,000 of those downloads just this year.

AMANDA: Yeah. Holly, we are here together, back where it all started, in the BJC headquarters, recording our 100th episode, and it’s a party. We’re here to celebrate with each other and to celebrate with all of you, our listeners. And you’re the reason that we do this week in, week out. And so we are so happy.

And it does seem auspicious that as we sat down to record our hundredth episode, we learned that we’ve been downloaded 100,000 times.

HOLLY: Yeah.

AMANDA: So why do we do this, Holly? Why did we say, you know, our work was just not filling our time enough; let’s start a podcast series?

HOLLY: As I recall, I did ask that question: Why do we need to do this? — because we’re not really the types to just say, everybody else is doing it; let’s try it. And we did know that so many people wanted content accessible to them, and BJC has long produced great educational information. We’ve been involved in all kind of advocacy efforts. We communicate that through any means we can. We’ve been lucky to have great communications staff that help us do that.

But they really encouraged us to try a podcast so that we could share BJC’s knowledge, experience, and perspective in a way that was distinct from our more technical advocacy work, which can sound kind of overwhelming or cumbersome. But we wanted to present it in a way that was more conversational and accessible to all of our friends and supporters and people who really want to understand more about faith freedom for all.

AMANDA: And as I recall, we also wanted to go more in depth, that often the religion angle of a story — of something that was happening at the Supreme Court or in Congress — it was often not gone into in the kind of depth that we thought it deserved. And so we thought, why not — let’s sit down and have a longer conversation to really dive into the issue of religion and the law and what’s at stake for faith freedom today. And over the last five seasons, we have found plenty of content to keep us going and keeping us with our headsets on and in front of the mic for these 100 episodes.

HOLLY: I know that we had experimented with podcasts before. We had a BJC podcast. Occasionally we would explain a Supreme Court case or some advocacy effort that we were involved in, and so we’d had some experiments, and that was well-received by, again, people who follow BJC and want to know more about our work or want to engage with us.

We started this series in early 2020, and we should go back, Amanda, and think about kind of what it was like in those early days. But as I was thinking about that today, I was remembering how it was in 2019 that we launched Christians Against Christian Nationalism, which has, you know, become one of our main projects at BJC, along with so many others that join with us in that work, fighting Christian nationalism.

And, of course, we had a podcast series, Amanda, that you hosted, and it’s ten episodes on Christian nationalism that is still available on Christians Against Christian Nationalism’s website. And so we knew how to do podcast series, and we thought, okay, now let’s see if we can take that to explore a lot of different issues, as you said, going deeper on the court cases or legislation.

But also it was a fun chance to have those rapid reaction conversations that we often have in the office here. Something happens, and we want to talk about, you know, how does that sound to us; what do we think about it from our perspective, defending faith freedom for all?

AMANDA: And back then in February 2020, we were also at the beginning of a presidential election year. We thought, you know, going forward there would be issues regarding religion and the law coming up and wanted to be sure that we gave those issues the time and space that they deserved. But we did launch in February 2020, what was —

HOLLY: Dum-dum-dum-dum.

AMANDA: Right. — when we really had no idea what was coming. We did think of this more as a series at the time, and we did — even with the COVID-19 pandemic — we did 20 episodes that first season, from February to July of 2020. We were covering in real time the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic and some of the issues involving religious freedom that were coming up around that. We also covered real time practically when President Trump had his photo op with the Bible on June 1 of that year.

And there were also a number of cases that the Supreme Court decided that term that involved religious freedom, including Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the third time the contraceptive mandate case came up to the Court in Trump v. Pennsylvania, and some consolidated cases involving the ministerial exception.

And as we covered those cases, we also covered the first ever live-streamed oral arguments at the Supreme Court, because that institution, of course, had to shift along with the pandemic.

You know, I’m really pleased that we started this project before the pandemic hit, Holly, or we might not be sitting here today doing this podcasting. But we were committed to continuing this programming as everything shifted around us.

HOLLY: We knew that in a presidential year, we thought that maybe that the news media would overlook some of the religion stories, but, of course, at the time, we could not even predict how many religion stories there were.

Of course, I do remember us talking about that infamous photo-op with the Bible of President Trump. That was in the heat of the summer, with all of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations all over the country, all over the world. But that was a stark example of what we were concerned about, the way religion plays in to current debates, sometimes in ways that are really harmful to our religious liberty tradition.

So I am really glad that we started this podcast series as well, and we’ve kept it going. You know, we started here in the office. Then we had to move home for a long time, and we’ve seen a lot, and we’ve experimented with some different approaches, and we have quite a body of work in these past five seasons now.

AMANDA: Yeah. We went on in season 2 and 3 to do most of those as Zoom recordings, as we remained safe and socially distant in those seasons. And then by the time we got to season 4, we started doing more in-person recordings on a regular basis. And that’s when our podcast really started to take off, Holly.

We did 26 episodes in season 4, and we started releasing transcripts for each podcast, posting audio on YouTube as well as other podcasting platforms. It’s also when we saw our largest listener growth, with more than 35,000 downloads in season 4 alone.

HOLLY: We also had a crew from Voice of America come in to watch us record an episode. So we’ve done a lot of different things, and we’ve had a lot of fun, as well as talked very seriously about major shifts at the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the last five years, there’s been some very significant cases. Amanda, you named some of them, but in later episodes, particularly I was thinking season 3, the Court decided Ramirez v. Collier, a case about religious rights in the execution chamber; Carson v. Makin, which dealt with the funding of private religious schools in a program at the state of Maine that really pushed the law toward more funding of private religious institutions.

That same term, the Court had a decision about free speech and the use of religion in a limited public forum, that case that dealt with flags in front of the Boston City Hall, and also decided Kennedy v. Bremerton — that huge case, the football coach prayer case. I say a huge case, because it’s in that case that the Court said that it abandoned its prior tests and has kind of now unleashed a new era in religious liberty law.

So we’ve had a lot of serious legal developments to discuss, and we’ve done that, you know, looking at the cases that the Court chooses to take, the issues that they address, the advocates that are involved, as well as analyzing the oral arguments, which is really one of my favorite things that we do, Amanda, is to get to react — if not live, almost live when we’re together in conversation.

AMANDA: Yeah. It has been a busy few years at the U.S. Supreme Court, Holly. I also think about last term and last season when we analyzed and discussed the 303 Creative v. Elenis case and the Groff v. DeJoy case, two really important cases involving religion that the Court considered.

There’ve also been important changes in personnel at the Court, and we’ve covered the confirmation hearings of Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Ketanji Brown Jackson over the past couple of years.

But now in season 5, there has been less activity, comparatively, at the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to religion and the law cases, and so this season has been the season perhaps with the most variety of programming. We started this season with a live show in front of the BJC Board, and we have also gone to the archives some this season, releasing speeches from Barbara Jordan and Coretta Scott King that hadn’t been heard in more than 30 years. We also had Rob Reiner on the show this year when he was in Washington for the first public screening of his documentary “God & Country.”

HOLLY: We also played audio of the Texas Tribune panel, Amanda, that you served on with Dr. Anthea Butler of University of Pennsylvania and Rev. Bart Barber of the Southern Baptist Convention where you guys were together, discussing your different perspectives on fighting Christian nationalism.

And we had interviews, as you mentioned, Rob Reiner, but we also had our own Dr. Sabrina Dent along with Dr. Anthony Pinn from Rice University, as they discussed the changing religious landscape of Black America. We had Chris Crawford on, a friend of ours, to discuss the new Faith in Elections Playbook.

We learned that this podcast really gives us an opportunity to hear from other voices, as well as have our discussions. So it’s been a full as well as fun season for us. Despite the seriousness of our topic, it’s also enjoyable to get to talk to each other and to engage with different perspectives as we do this work to defend faith freedom for all.

AMANDA: So, Holly, we’ve done 67 hours of podcasting, but spoiler alert, it’s a lot more than 67 hours when we think about all the time that we spend thinking about this show, preparing for it, recording it, and of course, our producer, Cherilyn Guy, spends editing to make it sound like something that you all might want to listen to in your ears week in, week out.

Thinking back over these hundred episodes, Holly, and these five seasons that have made up this body of work so far, do you have any favorites that come to mind, favorite episodes or things that stand out from our podcasting time together?

HOLLY: You know, as I said, I really do like responding to the Court. That’s fun. But I have to say, one of my favorite episodes was the live show we did at the end of season 3, which was reacting to the decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton. And that’s probably because we were so close to that case.

I had been following it for a long time. We, of course, know the litigants that were involved. We had done a lot of education around the case, not just on the specifics of what was happening in Bremerton but about the relationship between religion and the responsibilities of public schools.

We filed an amicus brief that was authored by Professor Doug Laycock and Professor Christopher Lund that we thought made an important contribution. So we had a lot at stake and a lot of interest in this case.

And then we did a live show, and we were at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly with really good friends, people who are very dedicated to religious freedom in the historic Baptist tradition. And being in the room with them as we were explaining why this case was important and why parts of it were very upsetting was really gratifying, and I think that’s because we know that things are not always as they seem.

Of course we support individual free speech and free exercise, including that of teachers, and yet we knew that this case, the way it was presented, had great danger of being misinterpreted in ways that would hurt students’ rights, as this podcast shows and many other outlets is a case that continues to deserve attention.

AMANDA: Yeah. I remember that live record well, and I’m even helped in my memory by a photo that we have in our office that we’re looking at right now of us doing that live recording. And what I remember is we had sat together in a room in that hotel, trying to understand and dissect that case, and then run downstairs and do a live recording.

HOLLY: I’d forgotten that part.

AMANDA: And so it was very much our first impressions of that case. It was wonderful to see listeners. Right? We don’t get to see you all listeners every day, but to see you all react to what we had to say and to really be interested in the analysis of the case and to do that real time was, indeed, very special.

And I think part of the energy that I felt was not just the energy from the live audience but also the energy from being in person with you, Holly, because up until that point, we had been doing all remote recording after we went home for the pandemic, just four episodes into this podcast. And so to be back and to be able to feed off of our in-person energy just really made that particular episode stand out.

HOLLY: Yeah. Of course, Amanda, I also like those episodes where I get to learn about conversations that you’re in, sometimes out on the road with other scholars or leaders in the movement against Christian nationalism, or where, for example, you want a closer, on-the-ground look, which reminds me of the Inside the ReAwaken America Tour episode which gave me a chance to interview you about your experience there, and not surprisingly, that is one of our most popular episodes.

AMANDA: I think it’s actually the most downloaded episode that we’ve had, and I appreciated the chance just to be able to offer reflections on that experience, which really has very much shaped my thinking about how Christian nationalism is spreading in certain circles, particularly as it overlaps with political campaigning of the former president.

I also think about just that whole first season, Holly, during the COVID-19 pandemic and this chance to be together virtually over Zoom, and also just to speak personally — you know, at that time, I had a preschooler in the house, and trying to balance what it meant to be a mother in that circumstance with leading an organization and being a podcast host and just all of the grace that you and Cherilyn showed me as we were trying to find places that were quiet enough for me to be able to record this podcast, and knowing, though, that I thought the content was really important for the moment.

And I said earlier the photo-op with President Trump in front of the church, and I said June 1, because it really was — like that moment is so seared in my memory, because I at the time was living about a mile up the street from where that was happening, and later that night, I heard the helicopters circling over my neighborhood. Like it was just so urgent to me, so to have a place to be able to talk and share those firsthand experiences that we were having with Christian nationalism in my neighborhood as it intersected with these protests at the time was, I think, important for me and, I hope, instructive and important for listeners as well.


Segment 2: Questions on tax-exempt status, tough conversations, and more (starting at 19:06)

HOLLY: Well, Amanda, let’s open the phone lines now and hear from our callers. (Laughing.)

AMANDA: (Laughing.) Wait. What are we doing here, Holly?

HOLLY: Oh, wait, I forgot. Okay. All right. We’re not doing a live radio show, but it’s the next best thing, and it suits us. So we did solicit questions from our Respecting Religion listeners, and we appreciate that people wrote in.

AMANDA: Yeah. So our first question comes from a listener named Danny who raised several points about tax-exempt status for churches and relationships organizations and had a particular question about what happens when those organizations might still discriminate in hiring against women or LGBTQ individuals based on their religious doctrine.

So, Holly, I thought we might talk a little bit about tax-exempt status and religious organizations and what are some of the common questions in general we get on this topic.

HOLLY: Yes. Listener Danny was particularly interested in this, because he remembered that there was some kind of bar in the law against nonprofit organizations with regard to racism. And that comes up sometimes because there’s a famous case called Bob Jones University v. United States, and it’s a case that goes back way before our time in this work, Amanda.

It’s a 1983 case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld a rule that the IRS had that restricted its giving of tax-exempt status to private schools that engaged in racial discrimination. So basically it’s a case where a religious claim was made by a university — at that time, Bob Jones University, which, I think, called itself dedicated to fundamentalist Christian beliefs, included prohibitions against interracial dating and marriage, and their policies were based on their religious beliefs, so they challenged this IRS rule.

And the question before the High Court was: Can the government prohibit race discrimination at the expense of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause? And the Court found that the IRS was correct in its decision to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, as well as Goldsboro Christian School, another school that also had policies based on race.

I think in that case, they actually had racially discriminatory admissions policies based on their interpretation of the Bible. And so the Court upheld the IRS ruling that basically said that they were not allowed to have that exemption from taxes that’s available for charitable organizations, including religious educational institutions under 501(c)(3).

So occasionally the question comes up now. We often are focused on religious diversity, and sometimes we’re discussing some, you know, disagreement about what different religious organizations do and believe, and obviously, sometimes religious institutions have principles that are at odds with the majority of the public sentiment and maybe other policies and laws in place.

So it sometimes come up for debate: Could an organization lose its 501(c)(3) status because of its religious views that are discriminatory? And generally we have not seen that. We have these debates sometimes, but it seems that the Bob Jones case kind of stands alone as racial discrimination being in a category by itself, that would disqualify them for having this status as a charitable organization, organized this way by the IRS.

Well, we know, Amanda, we could talk for a really long time about the idea of discrimination and what that word means in different contexts and particularly as churches and other religious organizations can organize themselves around their principles. But I do think it’s worth mentioning on this broad topic of whether or not Bob Jones could be expanded to other areas of policy concern — that that just hasn’t happened.

I think most recently there are and have been religious organizations that were concerned that the Supreme Court’s acceptance and protection of a constitutional right to marriage that includes same-sex couples would somehow lead to a policy that would disqualify churches or religious organizations that hew to what they call “traditional marriage” would somehow lose that status. And that just hasn’t happened.

Most recently this issue came up in the Respect for Marriage Act, that act that was passed in 2022 to protect the right to same-sex marriage after some questions arose based on this Court’s decisions, and there’s a section of the Respect for Marriage Act that says, nothing in the Act “shall be construed to deny or alter any benefit, status, or right of an otherwise eligible entity or person which does not arise from a marriage, including tax-exempt status, tax treatment, educational funding,” and et cetera, et cetera.

And I think the reason that is there is because the Respect for Marriage Act acknowledges the legal right to same-sex marriage and is an act that only passed because people were willing to come together and acknowledge that, even though they had significant religious differences about human sexuality and what marriage meant within their religious context.

AMANDA: Yeah. And I think that legislative language reflects the kind of legislative compromise that was possible when that act was passed, to assure that religious organizations could continue to define in their quarters what religious marriage would be, while respecting what the government would define as legal marriage, and so just kind of taking the issue of the loss of tax-exempt status off of the table, at least for the passage of this act.

HOLLY: That’s right. And, of course, issues of nondiscrimination and respect for religious freedom will continue to present challenges, both legally, culturally, and for some people personally.

Another question we got was from Xergio. He sent us a message and said, “Hello. I’m a recovering Baptist. I went to seminary in Venezuela and Texas. I was a pastor in both places. I haven’t been to church since the Muslim ban of 2017. Anyway, my question is about the tax-exemption of churches. Does it hold? In a world where many churches have become openly partisan, should they still be tax-exempt?”

I totally sympathize with being a recovering Baptist. We know many, and I want to tell Xergio that, you know, you can return. You may or may not, but it is possible that people recover and come back into part of the Christian world. But understand that he might be struggling with a lot of what he’s seen there, and again, interested in this tax-exempt question.

Amanda, that gets more to something that we’ve talked about, and that is particular restrictions on 501(c)(3)s that become too involved in partisan matters or electoral campaigns.

AMANDA: Yes. 501(c)(3) being shorthand for that part of the Tax Code that gives most favored tax status to a subset of corporate organizations that operate for a variety of reasons, educational, scientific, charitable, and in the case of churches and other houses of worship, religious reasons.

So these 501(c)(3) organizations are often defined by what they don’t do. They don’t accrue profits for the sake of shareholders.  They don’t spend a substantial part of their work doing direct lobbying. And they don’t intervene in any activities that favor or oppose candidates for public office. And so that restriction applies across the board to religious and to nonreligious nonprofit organizations.

But Xergio’s right that there has been quite a bit of criticism, because there are some houses of worship that have or seem to have intervened in campaigns for or against a candidate for public office. And so we have talked in the past, Holly, on this podcast about this so-called Johnson Amendment, this particular provision that prohibits campaign intervention by nonprofits. And we’ve talked in some cases about under-enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service.

But the fact that it has been under-enforced I don’t think alone provides any kind of argument for repeal of the Johnson Amendment, for repeal of this particular provision. I also think that churches and other nonprofits that are intervening in campaigns for public office should stop doing that, not just for tax-exempt reasons but also for lots of just practical reasons.

These rules against campaign intervention protect the integrity of nonprofit organizations and the entire sector. Our fear is that were these rules to be removed, that we would see tremendous pressure and a tremendous influx of campaign money flowing through the coffers of nonprofit organizations.

HOLLY: I like that he added a bonus question, noting that as a foreign-born American, he admires the longevity and brevity of the U.S. Constitution. He says, “However, it baffles me how it is regarded and the Founding Fathers as almost infallible” — yeah, I’m with you — he says, “with a devotion that I would save only for the Bible. I don’t even know exactly how to articulate my question, but it has to do with the idea that I see the kernel of Christian nationalism in that undue devotion to a document that is not divinely inspired.”

AMANDA: I mean, for me, Holly, that just sets us up some to talk about our own views of the Constitution. I mean, I think, first of all, clearly it is not infallible in that we have seen it amended a number of times. And I think that that also makes an argument for a kind of constitutional interpretation that accounts for the Constitution as providing an outline of ideals in some cases, ideals that have never been fully realized, that provides us a framework for applying it to our modern-day circumstances.

And I see some parallels between this infallible view of the Constitution with this constitutional doctrine of so-called originalism, which in many ways operates somewhat like an inerrant reading of the Bible in that it imposes one’s own views in ascribing one particular meaning on a document that is, in reality, open for quite a bit of individual interpretation and application to modern times.

HOLLY: There are parallels, Amanda, that we see in conversations about interpreting the Bible and interpreting the Constitution. And so, yes. We certainly understand and empathize with Xergio and his bafflement about this, and that’s one reason that we’re dedicated to trying to continue conversations and have people really look very seriously at what guides them, how they look at Scripture and act according to their holy books as well as how they participate as members of a political community.

AMANDA: So our next question comes from Jillian who asked a more direct question. She writes, “How do I handle other Christian family members who do not see the threat that Trump is?”

HOLLY: I think Jillian is struggling with what we heard a lot of families are struggling with in this time of using Christian language — sometimes as this thin veil over partisan political ideas, not only associated with former President Trump but also really being part of our political culture right now.

And it reminds me of an episode that we did back in season 3 where we talked about how to have tough conversations, particularly when there’s so much misinformation and so much danger of harming and losing important relationships. We do know that many people have concerns about the way former President Trump has perpetuated Christian nationalism and really harmed the ability of Christians to disagree as they normally would on political matters.

I know these conversations are hard, but maybe it helps a little bit just to know that there are many different kinds of Christians and many of them that are really dedicated to fighting Christian nationalism, even though they might disagree on a lot of other issues.

AMANDA: And I tackle this issue some in my forthcoming book, How to End Christian Nationalism, when I talk about how to take on Christian nationalism close to home. And some of the principles that I talk about there and that I would suggest to anyone who would ask such a question is, one, to approach these conversations in a posture of humility, to have conversations like these with people that you are already in relationship with.

Don’t try to have a debate on social media with someone you actually haven’t seen or talked to in 20 years but someone that you are in regular conversation with and relationship with, and to approach the conversations not out of a sense of trying to change someone’s mind but in a position of genuine curiosity: Why is it that you think that way? Tell me more. Give me some more examples of what you’re thinking of.

And that that might actually result in a more productive conversation than in trying to share talking points or data or certainly trying to debate someone into a position of coming to agreement with you.

So this question is one that we actually get quite a bit, so I’m glad that we had it come in for this episode, Holly.


Segment 3: Questions on podcast recommendations, favorite Supreme Court justices, and more [starting at 34:07]

HOLLY: Well, we also got some questions that were on the lighter side. A question from Cynthia asked what podcasts we listen to. We have mentioned, I think on our earlier podcasts, Amanda, that we listen to other podcasts, legal podcasts, and she wanted to know if we would share some recommendations.

AMANDA: Yeah. So, Holly, we both listen to Strict Scrutiny regularly and compare notes on what we hear there.

HOLLY: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

AMANDA: And then I have also recently been listening to the Prosecuting Donald Trump podcast. I have gotten to know Mary McCord, who is the co-host of that, because we testified before Congress together, so that has really been enlightening to follow those cases.

And then I don’t just listen to legal podcasts. I also am a regular listener of The Ezra Klein Show, long-time listener, even before he was with The New York Times. And then one of my more fun podcasts — I have been doing quite a bit of running lately, and I like the Another Mother Runner podcast where I hear about people like me, who are mother runners.

HOLLY: That sounds like a fun one. I think I’d probably run faster when I’m listening to Prosecuting Donald Trump and sometimes The Ezra Klein Show, taking on very serious issues that face our country. But I agree that both of those do it very well, very thoughtfully, and I always learn a lot.

I’m also a big fan of Amicus, another important legal podcast, and for my fun or relaxing time, I like to listen to Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris. It’s one of my favorite podcasts. If nothing else, you gotta love that name, because we would all be better off if we could just be just 10 percent happier at least.

AMANDA: It’s a good goal.

HOLLY: Another fun question we got was: What made you initially want to be an intern at BJC back in the day? So this must be a listener who knows us quite well, Amanda, knows that both of us worked here in our younger years, before our current careers.

AMANDA: I was actually introduced to BJC and the idea of an internship by someone who was a BJC staff member back in the 1960s, someone who was a member of my church, and when I came up to Washington, D.C., to go to college at Georgetown University, brought me to the offices where we’re sitting right now, and said —


AMANDA: — You need to know them; they need to know you. So that is what got me interested in the work, and as soon as I learned about the work that BJC did, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

HOLLY: Yeah. And for me, I had finished undergraduate school at Wake Forest with a degree in political science — or “politics” as they called it at the time — and I knew I had an interest in law and policy but was not yet heading to law school, and so I was looking for different internships to expand my knowledge of what lawyers do and how they work in society. And someone at my home church in Jackson, Mississippi, told me about the internship at BJC.

By the way, that’s an internship program that continues today, so if you or someone you know is interested, go to our website at BJConline.org/internships.

AMANDA: Holly, next question: Who is your favorite Supreme Court justice?

HOLLY: I have to go with Elena Kagan on that one, and I just love her clear writing. I like her kind of droll sense of humor that you get to see every once in a while, her sharp way of engaging with advocates. I had the opportunity to meet her one time, too, and she didn’t disappoint. She just had a very nice, professional, serious way about her but was very polite and kind as well.

What about you, Amanda? Who’s your favorite?

AMANDA: Okay. So I’m going to cheat a little. I’m going to do one from all time and one on the current Court. So all time, I would say Justice Brennan, and that’s because when I was an undergraduate, I wrote a paper on Justice Brennan and his church-state jurisprudence, and so I learned quite a bit about him personally, and I just remember that and thinking just how captured I was by what a religious person he was personally and the way that he brought that and a separationist mentality into his writings.

But on the current Court, I would say Justice Jackson is quickly becoming my favorite justice. I love listening to her at oral argument. I think she asks such probing and clear questions and comes across as genuinely curious about the answers that people are giving. And so I think she’s distinguishing herself as an excellent justice, even in her short tenure so far on the Court.

HOLLY: Another fun question we got was: If you weren’t working at BJC, what would you be doing?

AMANDA: Wow! So I left working on Capitol Hill to come work at BJC, and so I was kind of on a different —

HOLLY: So we rescued you!  We rescued you!

AMANDA: Exactly. I don’t think I would still be working on the Hill, but I — you know, my long-time dream as a kid was to be a judge, so I might be a judge somewhere if I weren’t working at BJC. How about you, Holly?

HOLLY: I imagine I’d be practicing law, probably with a little less passion, but I would be trying to solve problems, bring what I can to difficult issues, figure them out, help people get through their troubles using whatever talents I have, including my legal talents.

AMANDA: Yeah. I think for both of us, Holly, we feel really fortunate to get to do the work that we do, defending faith freedom for all, and also just to bring it full circle, to get to do this podcast together. It has been so fun.

And don’t worry. We’re keeping it going. This isn’t our last episode, but we just wanted to take a pause this week and really have time to celebrate with one another and with all of you what this has meant, to do a hundred episodes of Respecting Religion.

HOLLY: And that brings us to the close of this episode of Respecting Religion. Thanks for joining us for this show and so many others. For more information on what we discussed, visit our website at RespectingReligion.org for show notes and transcripts.

AMANDA: Respecting Religion is produced by Cherilyn Guy with editorial assistance from Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons.

HOLLY: Learn more about our work at BJC, defending faith freedom for all, by visiting our website at BJConline.org.

AMANDA: And we’d love to hear from you. You can send both of us an email by writing to [email protected]. We’re also on social media @BJContheHill, and you can follow me on X, which used to be called Twitter, @AmandaTylerBJC.

HOLLY: And if you enjoyed this show, share it with others. Take a moment to leave us a review or a five-star rating to help more people find us.

AMANDA: We also want to thank you for supporting this podcast. You can donate to these conversations by visiting the link in our show notes.

HOLLY: Join us on Thursdays for new conversations Respecting Religion.