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

Court's Ruling Won't Limit Christian Hate Speech

The Christian Right is concerned that yesterday's Supreme Court decision on student speech will restrict high-schoolers' ability to spread anti-gay messages. But they've got nothing to worry about.

In yesterday's decision in Morse v. Frederick , better known as the " Bong Hits 4 Jesus " case, the Supreme Court's conservative majority appears to have turned on its Christian Right supporters. The Court narrowly held that a public school principal could constitutionally confiscate a nonsensical sign which read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" from a student because, in the Court's absurd view, it promoted illegal drug use. Immediately, the Christian Right was distressed. Lawyers who had sided with the student (and the Christian Right's arch-enemy, the American Civil Liberties Union) are now worried that the precedent will be used to restrict their own clients' speech, also supposedly in Jesus' name, but not nearly as frivolous. Across the country, the conservative legal group the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) goes to court to vindicate the free speech rights of Christian students to tell their LGBT peers they're going to hell, usually after their speech has run afoul of school policies designed...

The Future of Anti-Gay Activism

The Christian Right is recruiting black pastors to make the case that equating gay rights with civil rights is an affront to African Americans.

At a conference of several thousand conservative Pentecostals at Virginia Beach's Rock Church this spring, Bishop Harry Jackson was recruiting soldiers for the next wave of anti-gay activism. "God's getting ready to shake us up," roared the Harvard MBA-turned preacher, rousing the audience to divinely ordained political action. With the crowd cheering, applauding, and speaking in tongues, Jackson shouted, "God's looking for a SWAT team ... he's looking for a team of Holy Ghost terrorists !" Jackson wasn't having any ordinary come-to-Jesus moment, exhorting his followers, as most neo-Pentecostal preachers do nearly every Sunday, to wage battle with the devil. He was organizing a political war of words, fought with letters, e-mails, and telephone calls. His target was the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, which would add sexual orientation and perceived sexual orientation to the classes protected by the federal hate crimes statute,...

What Falwell Never Learned

Falwell never grasped how to brand faith for pop cultural consumption.

Jerry Falwell was not a diminutive man in any sense of the word, but he died yesterday diminished. Falwell's star rose in the 1980s -- he was an anachronism who elbowed his way onto the national stage alongside Gordon Gecko and MTV, showing the rest of America that religious fundamentalism still thrived in a decade more associated with the seven deadly sins than the four Gospels. Falwell's legacy -- the fact that fundamentalist preachers control enough votes for the Republican Party to seem congenitally addicted to them -- is clear enough. But those who seek to walk in Falwell's political footsteps learned something from the decade of greed that Falwell never did: Christianity, like anything else, needs to be packaged, marketed, and consumed. In addition to his crusade as leader of the ludicrously fashioned Moral Majority, Falwell was also known as a televangelist, a term that in the '80s became associated with the scandals of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. (The former...

Abramoff's Go-To Earmarker

Another casualty in l'affaire Abramoff emerged last week when a little-known former congressional staffer, Mark Zachares, pleaded guilty to conspiring to obtain government favors in exchange for a golfing trip to Scotland, a ride on a Gulfstream jet, other entertainment, and prospective employment by the lobbyist. The favors Jack Abramoff sought in return included , among other things, "federal support for a multi-million dollar highway development project benefiting a businessman." At the time Abramoff sought that particular favor, Zachares worked for the House Transportation Committee, whose chair, Republican Don Young of Alaska, notoriously lavished his own state with $450 million worth of earmarks for two "bridges to nowhere." The Zachares guilty plea, which a spokesperson for Young said the congressman would have no comment on, sheds new light on the connections between the king of pork and the fallen king of K Street. Zachares, "the go-to guy on Alaska issues for the...

The Goy Who Cried Wolf

Delegates at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference were treated to an air-brushed John Hagee last night, primed with his most innocuous talking points and stripped of his most outlandish Armageddon rhetoric. Hagee, the founder of the America's leading Christian Zionist lobby, Christians United for Israel , left his clumsy exegeses of Biblical prophecy back home in San Antonio. He is well-versed in bringing an audience of several thousand people to its feet, and he knew he didn't need his slide show of mushroom clouds and world-ending wars to work this crowd. Hagee's set-up man was the historian Michael Oren, who recited the history of restorationism , a Protestant movement dating back to the first settlers at Plymouth Rock that sought to return the Jews to Palestine and create a Jewish state. In Oren's telling, you would have thought that before Mearsheimer, Walt, and Carter came along, Jews and American Christians had spent the last several centuries...