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This Week in God, 10.24.15

Does the U.S. government have the authority to simply close a house of worship, despite the First Amendment? For the GOP frontrunner, maybe.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Donald Trump on the stage  in the Republican presidential primary debate, Aug. 6, 2015. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Donald Trump on the stage  in the Republican presidential primary debate, Aug. 6, 2015. 
First up from the God Machine this week is an alarming quote from the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, who thinks it may be possible for the United States government to close houses of worship, the First Amendment notwithstanding.
Mother Jones reported this week on Donald Trump exploring the limits of his anti-ISIS strategy, when he raised the possibility of unprecedented action.

In an interview on Fox Business, host Stuart Varney asked Trump whether, if elected president, he would follow the anti-ISIS lead of the British government, which has revoked the passports of people who traveled to fight alongside extremists, and has planned to close mosques that are "used to host extremist meetings or speakers." "I would do that, absolutely, I think it's great," Trump responded. Varney pressed Trump on whether he even could close a mosque, citing religious freedom as a possible roadblock.

Trump conceded he wasn't sure, but he was open to the possibility. "It depends, if the mosque is, you know, loaded for bear, I don't know," the GOP candidate said during the on-air interview. "You're going to have to certainly look at it."
An official for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a written statement, explaining, "Donald Trump's apparent willingness to close down American mosques that he deems 'extreme' is totally incompatible with the Constitution and our nation's cherished principles of religious freedom."
CAIR's statement has the benefit of accuracy, though Trump was not without supporters. American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer told his audience this week that the First Amendment only protects Christians -- a constitutional interpretation with no foundation in reality -- which in Fischer's mind means a Trump administration "can constitutionally close down mosques in the United States of America.”
First, reality and constitutional law appear to point in a very different direction. Second, when this election cycle eventually ends, and we take stock of the degree to which some candidates relied on anti-Islam messages to advance their ambitions, keep this incident in mind.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* An interesting controversy brewing in Utah: "An outside organization has requested that coaches associated with the University of Utah football team stop offering religious classes for football players, according to a letter mailed to the university's president. Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to university Pres. David Pershing Monday requesting that graduate assistant and former NFL player Sione Pouha and Utah safeties coach Morgan Scalley stop teaching an LDS Institute class meant for players on the football team."
* Speaking of Utah: "The scent of curry wafted from a conference hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, Saturday as thousands lined up for a free meal at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, an international gathering that, every five years, brings together thousands of people from different religious and spiritual traditions. Nishkam Centre, a U.K.-based Sikh organization, hosted the free lunch with the help of dozens of volunteers. The meal, called a langar, is a fundamental component of the Sikh faith and offered diners a taste of worship at its most egalitarian."
* A progressive Buddhist opens his doors in Japan: "Same-sex marriages are not legal in Japan. However, there is a Japanese Buddhist temple where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and members of other sexual minority groups can wed: the Shunkoin temple in Hanazono, Kyoto. Same-sex couples from around the world visit the temple."
* And the AFA's new project is bound to be interesting: "Indexes, ratings, and even awards pepper the culture when it comes to those who are open and welcoming to certain groups, populations, or facets of society. But now, American Family Association wants to make sure that the nation is informed about companies that honor religious liberty and those that don’t.... The new campaign, called the Corporate Religious Liberty Index (CRLI), is a short, simple questionnaire that seeks to gauge the importance of religious liberty for the nation’s major companies."