May 2014 News Briefs

Shaun Casey Tapped by Secretary Kerry to Head Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives

photo of Shaun CaseyLongtime AAR member Shaun Casey, who most recently served as the chair of the AAR’s Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion, has been chosen to lead the US Department of State’s Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives. In 2008, Casey advised then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

During his remarks at the launch of the new office August 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry noted that “if I went back to college today, I think I would probably major in comparative religion, because that’s how integrated it is in everything that we are working on and deciding and thinking about in life today.” You can view both Kerry and Casey’s remarks in full on the State Department’s website.

Casey will return to Wesley Theological Seminary, where he is a professor of Christian ethics, at the conclusion of his appointment.

Catherine Albanese Elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

photo of Catherine AlbaneseCatherine Albanese, J. F. Rowny Professor Emerita in Comparative Religions at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has been named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Albanese's research focuses on American religious history, and she is the author of the award-winning A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion (Yale University Press, 2007), Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age (University of Chicago Press, 1990), the textbook America: Religions and Religion, now in its fifth edition (Cengage, 2013), and numerous other books and articles. She was the president of the American Academy of Religion in 1994 and delivered the 2014 American Lectures in the History of Religions in Atlanta, GA.

Religion Newswriters Association's Top Stories of 2013

The Religion Newswriters Association polled more than three hundred journalists to identify the top ten religion news stories of 2013. The results were released in December of 2013:

1. Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is a surprise choice to succeed Benedict, becoming the first Latin American and first Jesuit pope, and the first to take the name of Francis. He immediately launches a series of stunning and generally popular forays—meeting with the poor in Brazil, embracing the ill, issuing conciliatory words toward gays and calling for a poorer and more pastoral church.

2. Pope Benedict XVI, citing age and strength issues, becomes first pope to resign in almost six hundred years.

3. The US Supreme Court, in 5-4 votes, clears the way for gay marriage in California and voids the ban on federal benefits to same-sex couples. Gay marriage continues to make inroads within the states, with Illinois and Hawaii becoming the fifteenth and sixteenth states to approve same-sex marriage.

4. The Obama administration makes concessions to faith-based groups and businesses opposed to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, but not enough to satisfy many of them. The disagreement continues as the US Supreme Court accepts a case brought by Hobby Lobby challenging the mandate, although faith-based and private employers had mixed results in the lower-courts.

5. Islam plays a central role in the post-Arab Spring Middle East as the Egyptian military ousts the elected, Muslim Brotherhood-led government and violently cracks down on its supporters; meanwhile, Sunni Islamist fighters increase their role in Syria's opposition.

6. Icon of reconciliation and nonviolence Nelson Mandela dies at age ninety-five and is remembered as a modern-day Moses who led his people out of racial captivity.

7. Religious-inspired attacks claim scores of lives, with extremist Buddhist monks fomenting attacks on Muslims in Myanmar and Muslim extremists targeting Christians at churches in Egypt, an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and a church in Peshawar, Pakistan. Moderate religious leaders condemn the attacks, and a Somali Muslim emerges as a hero for rescuing a young American girl in the Nairobi mall.

8. More than one in five Jews in America now report having no religion, according to a landmark survey from the Pew Research Center. The number of professing Jewish adults is now less than two percent of the US population, although Jewish identity remains strong.

9. The Boy Scouts of America, after much debate, votes to accept openly gay Scouts but not Scoutmasters. Several Catholic leaders endorse the move; some evangelical leaders oppose it.

10. Muslims join those across the country who condemn a devastating bombing at the Boston Marathon by two young Muslim men who attended college in the area. People of many faiths were among the many who showed an outpouring of support for the bombing victims.


Editor’s Note: Information for this article was provided by the Religion Newswriters Association. For the complete list, including the stories ranked 11th–20th, please see here (Last accessed April 8, 2014).

JAAR Reader Survey

Oxford University Press is implementing an important initiative to gather feedback from readers of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Over time, the feedback will be used to help inform the information and services provided to JAAR readers. If you would like to support this initiative by offering feedback on JAAR, this survey is for you!

Link to survey:

Please be sure to select "Journal of the American Academy of Religion" from the list of journals.

The survey will close on June 6, 2014.

Thank you!

Call for Religion in Translation Book Series Editor

The AAR Publications Committee seeks a book editor for the Religion in Translation Series, which is sponsored by the American Academy of Religion and published in cooperation with Oxford University Press. The Religion in Translation series seeks to make available to research scholars and classroom teachers alike significant primary texts in English translation, important secondary scholarship on religious texts, and reprints of major theoretical works in the field of religious studies. Given this broad mandate, proposals are sought from all areas of the discipline that will bring to an English-speaking audience texts of major importance to the world’s religious traditions, monographs that open up specific texts to wider audiences, and new translations of classic works of secondary scholarship that are perennially relevant to the understanding of religious phenomena, values, ideas, and practices. Books published in the series may be found here.

AAR Series Editors help set editorial policy, acquire manuscripts, and work with Oxford University Press in seeing manuscripts through to publication. Editors sit on the AAR Publications Committee for the duration of their five-year (renewable once) term. This is a volunteer position. All applicants must be members of the American Academy of Religion. Please e-mail inquiries, nominations (self-nominations are encouraged), and applications (a letter describing interests and qualifications, plus a current curriculum vita) by Word or PDF attachment to Kim Connor, Publications Committee Chair, The application deadline is June 1, 2014.

Call for Spotlight on Teaching Editor

The American Academy of Religion seeks a Spotlight on Teaching editor. Spotlight on Teaching is a major teaching and learning initiative of the AAR and its Committee on Teaching and Learning. Over the last several years, it has become a principal venue for exploring opportunities and challenges in teaching and learning about religions. Spotlight appears as a special supplement to Religious Studies News in the May and October issues. Each issue focuses on a particular theme, concern, or setting.

The Spotlight editor serves a four-year term as an ex-officio member of the AAR’s Teaching and Learning Committee. All applicants must be members of the AAR. If you are interested in this position, please e-mail inquiries, nominations (self-nominations are encouraged), and applications (a letter describing interests and qualifications, plus a current curriculum vita) by Word or PDF attachment to Elizabeth Hardcastle, Service Coordinator ( The application deadline is August 1, 2014.