2021年4月16日 星期五

The Daily: Who Is Really Winning in the Supreme Court?

We explore which faith groups are counting victories in recent rulings. Plus, 15 years of The Book Review Podcast.

By Lauren Jackson

Hi everyone, Happy Friday! This week, our team has been talking about the use of "Pelotoncore" by Jon Caramanica, our music critic, to describe Addison Rae's debut single; why Lil Nas X is not sorry about selling "Satan Shoes"; and tips for how to prevent soreness after getting a vaccine (swing your arm around!). As always, we're interested in your recommendations for what else should be on our minds. Let us know here.

Today, we're digging into the context behind Wednesday's episode about religion and the Supreme Court. Plus, we have some reading and listening recommendations for you, inspired by the longest running podcast at The Times: The Book Review.

Who is really winning in the Supreme Court?

Easter Mass was live-streamed from a mostly empty Catholic church in Brooklyn in April.Ryan Christopher Jones for The New York Times

At the center of Wednesday's show was an old, unresolved tension — this time, transformed, as most things have been, to fit the shape of the pandemic.

Late last Friday night, the Supreme Court again addressed the question: To what extent should a secular government accommodate religious preferences? In a 5-4 ruling, the court determined that California's coronavirus restrictions for indoor gatherings violated the free exercise of religion. The challenge was raised by Christians who wanted to host relatively large groups of people for Bible studies in private homes. And while we titled the show, "A Legal Victory for Religion," behind that claim sits a complex and nuanced portrait of a rapidly shifting religious America, with widely varied preferences and opinions.

Nearly half of all Americans claim a religion — a big tent definition that includes everyone from Pagans to Hasidic Jews, and Hindis to Rastafarians. And while the United States government has a long history of negotiating which religious preferences are legally protected, in recent decades, the Supreme Court has used a simple rule to answer this question.


"For 30 years, the court felt that religious people don't get any special treatment when it comes to 'neutrally applied' laws," like work holidays or mandatory drug testing, producer Robert Jimison said. "But in this episode, we wanted to explore how this and other recent decisions from the Justices could be steering the court in a new direction."

With the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the court, a conservative majority of justices have subsequently issued a string of rulings creating new privileges for religious groups. Now, some critics of the court's new direction are asking whether these rulings preference a subset of religious Americans. So we asked Adam Liptak, The Times's Supreme Court correspondent and Wednesday's guest, and Elizabeth Dias, our national religion correspondent, which groups specifically were benefiting from, and celebrating, these rulings.

Is this really a victory for all religious Americans?

Here's what Adam had to say:

The legal principles announced by the court in the recent cases in theory apply to all religions. But the recent run of victories for claims of religious freedom in the Supreme Court have mostly involved mainstream Christian groups. That is a change from an earlier era, a recent study found, when the court's rulings tended to protect minority religions and dissenting Christian denominations.

And the court's track record in cases involving Muslim plaintiffs is decidedly mixed.

On the one hand, the court ruled in favor of Muslim men who said they had been placed on the no-fly list to force them to violate their religious beliefs by spying on other Muslims. And it said that Arkansas prison officials had violated the religious liberty rights of Muslim inmates by forbidding them to grow beards.

In a much more important case, though, the court rejected a challenge to President Donald J. Trump's ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries. And the court allowed the execution of a Muslim inmate who had asked that his spiritual adviser be present in the death chamber but later stayed the executions of Buddhist and Christian inmates who had made similar requests.

Who specifically is celebrating this ruling?

Here's what Elizabeth told us:

Many conservative, white evangelicals and some Catholics opposed health-related restrictions on worship gatherings during the pandemic, and so they saw the Supreme Court's ruling as vindication for their cause. Ever since President Trump tilted the balance of the bench to their favor, especially with his final nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, they have hoped to use the court to advance their goals on issues like ending legalized abortion or protecting their religious preferences.


Though it appears America's conservative Christians are benefiting from the court's course change, the number of people within these communities who count these rulings as victories might be shrinking. For example, recent studies reveal growing generational divides among white evangelicals on gay rights, with nearly double the share of younger evangelicals supporting gay marriage than older evangelicals compared with more than a decade ago.

So while The Daily's host, Michael Barbaro, and Adam ended the episode noting that this issue is both a "legal fight and a culture wars fight," shifts in opinion within these groups point to the potential for de-escalation — and the possibility for common ground.

15 Years of The Book Review Podcast

By Mahima Chablani

Pamela Paul, middle, host of "The Book Review" podcast, has interviewed countless writers including Mitchell S. Jackson, left, and Kate Atkinson.Photographs via Pamela Paul

Today, our friends at the Book Review are celebrating the 15th anniversary of their podcast. As John Williams, an editor on the Books desk, wrote, when it comes to podcast years, the number 15 "might be closer to a century."


Produced since 2006, the podcast is the oldest one at The Times (!), and in its earliest days was recorded with a single microphone passed between the host and guests. Another fun fact is that since it began, the weekly podcast has missed only three episodes — those of the first three weeks of quarantine in March 2020.

Over the years, the show has been a forum for intimate interviews with the biggest names in literature, from Toni Morrison and John Updike to Jennifer Egan and Colson Whitehead. To celebrate the anniversary, Pamela Paul, host of the podcast and the editor of The New York Times Book Review, has selected her 15 favorite episodes.

We wanted to highlight one book, and one conversation, from Pamela's list that is especially relevant to this newsletter: "Homeland Elegies" by Ayad Akhtar.

Akhtar is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, and "Homeland Elegies" is his second novel. It explores what it means to be an American, and in particular, what it means to be Muslim-American, and the delicate negotiations that maintain that dual identity across generations. It's "a lover's quarrel with this country," the book critic Dwight Garner wrote, and it "circles, with pointed intellect, the possibilities and limitations of American life."

You can check out all of host Pamela Paul's top picks from across the years here:

The Improvement Association

We have a new show out: The Improvement Association. It's a podcast about the power of election fraud allegations, from the makers of Serial. We won't spoil anything, but we'll just say that in the first two episodes, Zoe Chace, the reporter for the series, takes us deep inside the ultimately "human-sized" form that election fraud takes in one small town in rural North Carolina.

It's a show about "individual people, in a tight-knit place, using their relationships to either make money or take revenge. Or both," she said. You can listen here, and the rest of the show will be coming out over the next two weeks:

On The Daily this week

Monday: How national approaches to vaccine distribution by the world's largest producers have created problems for Europe.

Tuesday: What is an NFT? And why did someone pay over $700,000 for a picture of our reporter's column?

Wednesday: Is the Supreme Court giving legal preference to faith groups?

Thursday: What you need to know about the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Friday: A primal scream from America's mothers.

That's it for The Daily newsletter. See you next week.

Have thoughts about the show? Tell us what you think at thedaily@nytimes.com.

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