Findings & Footnotes

■  The current issue of the Journal of Church and State (64:4) focuses on legal issues relating to Covid-19, specifically the free exercise of religion. The guest editor Adelaide Madera notes that, as might be expected, the curtailments of religious freedom took place in the early phase of the pandemic, but the conflict between the compelling interests of public health and other human rights, including freedom of religion, is a serious one for many legal systems. Noteworthy articles include an analysis suggesting how the U.S. Supreme Court has eroded the religious freedom parameters established in the controversial Smith decision. In contrast, Geoffrey Upton cites the case of the Orthodox Jewish community and argues that an over-expansion of religious accommodation has occurred, without regard to the burdens on civic society. An analysis of the Canadian situation shows that all religious challenges to Covid restrictions were rejected there, while courts and executive boards in Europe and Africa took similarly broad interpretations of public interest over religious freedoms. Madera concludes that the often “alarming judicial responses” taken in response to Covid pose questions as to “whether the pandemic standards of review might influence judicial reading in the near future, and whether courts have signaled a serious intent to revisit traditional standards of review on a lasting basis.” For more information on this issue, visit:


■  A double issue of The Pomegranate (23:1-2, 2021), the journal of Pagan studies, is devoted to the relationship of Paganism to museums and other forms of historic preservation. As repositories and showcases of pre-Christian historical artifacts, museums and other heritage sites have become places of Pagan veneration and devotion. The articles in the issue are mainly case studies, inclusinf one on how Pagans in Lithuania have contested the Catholic Church’s claims of the Christian nature of the site of the cathedral in Vilnius. Another article focuses on Old Uppsala, Sweden, where “Heathens” conduct rituals on burial mounds said to be the ancient site of sacrificial ceremonies and feasts. Such cases of “heritage politics and contestation” are becoming more common, especially in Europe and the United Kingdom, where churches were built over pagan historic sites. Other articles look at the witchcraft museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and at British Druids and their campaign to have “ancestral bones” and other corporeal relics in museums and heritage sites reburied. Museum directors’ scholarly and objective approach often is in conflict with Pagan practitioners’ claims and uses of objects and sites for rituals, as well as some of their connections to nationalistic movements. For more information on this issue, visit:


■  The last three decades saw churches in China emerging as a missionary force, both internally and in other parts of the world. The last few years under the tightening grip of Xi Jinping, however, have witnessed new restrictions on the churches and mission groups—a trend explored in the current issue of the evangelical China Source Quarterly (Winter). The issue looks at the state of Christianity in contemporary China, covering a wide range of topics—from the contours of the new restrictions to how expatriate Christians are changing their evangelism strategy to remote means after the pandemic and the ongoing crackdown on missions. The Chinese church was poised for a key role in missionizing China and other parts of the world until Xi changed the rules of the game. An article by Xinglu Lin updates these developments in light of the new environment of religious restrictions. He writes that Xi’s strategy of grid management, which imposes surveillance and tight public security on the population, brings special challenges and serious threats to the familiar practices of mission. He writes, “Our conception of the church in the past was as a center for gathering. Today, churches are beginning to share the gospel, worship, and fellowship through more flexible and creative small groups and networks. Originally centered on a certain region or location, today’s missions are being implemented in a decentralized or polycentric and localized way. Today people often use the acronym ‘VUCA’ to describe today’s world: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.” To download this issue, visit: