Sarah Posner

Sarah Posner's coverage of religion and politics has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Week, and many others.


Recent Articles

How the Religious Right Led to Trump

Two new books on America's religious history provide key insights into the currents that produced one of the country's least religious and least biblically literate presidents. 

AP Photo/Steve Helber
The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America By Frances FitzGerald Simon and Schuster American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion From the Puritans to the Present By Philip Gorski Princeton University Press This article appears in the Spring 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Donald Trump’s conquest of the White House, buoyed by the overwhelming support of white evangelicals, has, for the moment at least, quelled the semi-regular pronouncements of the death of the religious right. As the numbers of non-white and non-religious Americans have increased, the demographic weight of white evangelicals has fallen. But rather than withering away, the religious right in its 2017 version seems poised to capitalize on unexpected access to power—a miracle, if you will. They are ecstatic over Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, and what they see as his steadfast protection of religious liberty and opposition to abortion. They also see...

How Trump Beat Cruz at His Own Game

Banking on evangelicals, Cruz misread the Republican base at a moment when Trump had memorized its contours and soft spots.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Here’s a key reason why Ted Cruz lost the Republican presidential nomination to Donald Trump: Evangelicals don’t like him as much as Cruz imagines they do, and Trump possesses a diabolical savant’s grasp of how to push Republican base voters’ buttons—and Cruz’s. To Cruz, the 2016 presidential campaign was teed up to be the ultimate political fantasy: an opportunity to bash President Obama as an irreligious—or possibly Muslim—oppressor of God-fearing Christians, and any Democratic nominee as a purveyor of more of the same anti-American secularism. Because undermining the religious and patriotic bona fides of Democrats has been a Republican staple for several election cycles, Cruz pinned his entire campaign on a strategy of outdoing his rivals as the GOP’s most ardent Christian nationalist, the most pious and most conservative of all the evangelicals. There was more than one problem with this strategy. The chief problem, though, was...

How Contraception Court Challenge Hurts Religious Freedom

Conservatives have challenged the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate on the grounds that it tramples on their religious liberty, but a leading law professor argues that the lawsuit would undermine freedom of worship in the long run.

(Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Abortion and contraception opponents have sued to block the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate on the grounds that it violates their freedom of religion, but the challenge now pending before the Supreme Court actually undermines religious liberty, argues University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock in a recent amicus brief before the court. In pointed language, Laycock calls the religious nonprofits’ arguments a “mortal threat” to the future of religious freedom. A win by the plaintiffs, he writes, “would lead to absurd results that would discredit” the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) “and the cause of religious liberty.” It could lead to, he argues, the end of religious exemptions if an overbroad ruling makes it impossible for legislators and government agencies to carve out reasonable ones. Laycock’s brief is significant because he has long been seen as one of the staunchest and most thoughtful advocates...

Anti-union SCOTUS Challenge Threatens Church-State Separation

The Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case not only puts public-sector unions in danger, it risks opening a new chapter in the war over religion in public schools. 

(Photo: Shutterstock)
A version of this article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of Clarion , the newspaper of the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY. On Monday, the Supreme Court will take up Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case with profound implications for the future of public-sector labor unions, and the labor movement as a whole . At issue is the underpinning of public-sector unionism—that public employees who opt out of union membership can still be obligated to pay for their individual share of the services and collective bargaining they receive from the union. The Court could even decide to make union membership an opt-in rather than an opt-out proposition, allowing the public employees unions are required to represent to glean the benefits of representation without paying dues. While the plaintiffs in Friedrichs base their claims on a free speech argument that many find dubious, tucked away in the case lies another, real First Amendment concern: the...

In American Jewish Politics Regarding Israel, the Center Is Collapsing

Increasingly, U.S. media are covering the growing repression of left-wing and dissenting voices in Israel, alienating many American Jews, especially among the young.

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
The following is reprinted with permission from Religion Dispatches . Follow RD on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates. In late July, a group of young American Jews gathered outside the New York offices of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the umbrella organization founded in the 1950s and which claims to speak for a consensus of the American Jewish community. The young Jews outside, though, were challenging that organization’s claim to speak in their name. They read aloud the names of Palestinians and Israelis killed in the latest military escalation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and they recited the Mourner’s Kaddish. A few days later, the group delivered a letter to the Conference’s CEO, Malcolm Hoenlein, demanding “that the Conference of Presidents join our call to stop the war on Gaza, end the occupation, and forge a path forward for freedom and dignity for all people in Israel and Palestine.” Nine...