Writing for The St. Louis Jewish Light, Andrew Rehfeld, the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, reflects on the 70th anniversary of the state of Israel’s founding. He writes, “For the biggest threat that Israel faces from our community is not disagreement, but growing apathy and disengagement. We need to help an older generation recognize that Israel of 2018 is not Israel of 1948 (or 1967 or 1973); and to help a younger generation recognize the necessity of a Jewish State and the threats to its constituted existing that remain.”
Religion News Service’s Adelle M. Banks reports, “President Trump plans to unveil a new initiative that aims to give faith groups a stronger voice within the federal government and serve as a watchdog for government overreach on religious liberty issues.” The president planned to sign the executive order on May 3, the National Day of Prayer, in a Rose Garden ceremony surrounded by religious leaders. The Trump administration follows the Obama and Bush administrations in creating faith-based initiatives within government.
For Religion Dispatches, Frederick Clarkson reports that many religious freedom bills passed or being considered in state governments in recent years came from “Project Blitz,” an initiative that pushes for the Christian Right’s electoral agenda. Clarkson writes, “In the context of Project Blitz’s 116-page playbook, however, they also reveal a sophisticated level of coordination and strategizing that echoes the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which infamously networks probusiness state legislators, drafts sample legislation, and shares legislative ideas and strategies.” In 2018, seventy-one bills introduced in state legislatures were based on or similar in intent to the 20 model bills published in Project Blitz’s playbook.
The New York Times’s Elizabeth Dias and Sheryl Gay Stolberg report, “Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s abrupt decision to dismiss the House chaplain triggered an uproar on Friday over religion, pitting Republican against Republican and offering Democrats a political opportunity in a year already moving their way.” The Rev. Patrick J. Conroy suggested in a Thursday interview that Ryan asked him to resign because of a prayer he gave in November, where Conroy prayed for lawmakers to “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.” Dias and Stolberg write, “The controversy exposed long-simmering tensions between Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians over who should be lawmakers’ religious counselor.”
Southern Baptist Leader Pushes Back After Comments Leak Urging Abused Women to Pray and Avoid Divorceposted on May 1, 2018
The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein reports that an audiotape from 2000 has emerged where Paige Patterson, president of a major Southern Baptist seminary, is heard saying that women suffering from domestic abuse should pray, be submissive, and not seek divorce. “I have never in my ministry counseled anyone to seek a divorce and that’s always wrong counsel,” Patterson can be heard saying. Patterson has published a statement on Sunday claiming that the tape is a gross misrepresentation of his actual views, although he did not dispute the tape’s authenticity.
The New York Times‘ Jacey Fortin writes, “The Rev. Dr. James H. Cone, a central figure in the development of black liberation theology in the 1960s and ’70s who argued for racial justice and an interpretation of the Christian Gospel that elevated the voices of the oppressed, died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 79.” Cone, a professor at Union Theological Seminary, said in 2008, “Christianity was seen as the white man’s religion. I wanted to say: ‘No! The Christian Gospel is not the white man’s religion. It is a religion of liberation, a religion that says God created all people to be free.’ But I realized that for black people to be free, they must first love their blackness.”
In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Thomas H. Kean, Carter Phillips, and John Danforth write that the Trump administration’s travel ban threatens the Constitution and the separation of powers. Danforth is a former senator and the namesake of the Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, which publishes this journal; he is also a member of the center’s National Advisory Board. Together with Kean and Phillips, he writes, “All presidents push the limits of the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. President Trump’s travel ban tears the fabric.”
The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes reports that on Wednesday the Supreme Court will consider the Trump administration’s travel ban that bars entry for nationals from a group of majority-Muslim countries. Barnes writes, “The first version of the ban was issued just a week after Trump took office, and lower courts have found that it and each reformulated version since exceeded the authority granted by Congress and was motivated by Trump’s prejudice — animus, as courts like to say — toward Muslims.” He adds, “But, similar to a debate that has consumed Washington for the past 15 months, a major issue for the court is separating ‘the president’ from ‘this president.’”
For POLITICO Magazine, Ruth Graham reports, “As Christian networks have become more comfortable with politics, the Trump administration has turned them into a new pipeline for its message.” In 2017, Trump gave more interviews to the Christian Broadcasting Network than CNN, ABC, or CBS. CBN offers Trump a friendly platform that is unlikely to challenge him. Graham writes, “His hair-sprayed reality-TV persona—to say nothing of the bluster and the heroic monologues—aren’t that far from the preaching style that has prospered on cable evangelism.”
For The Washington Post, R. Marie Griffith, director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, writes that Americans wildly diverge in what they consider to be moral behavior. Determining President Trump’s “moral fitness”, in turn, is limited by the absence of a consensus of what is right or wrong. “Studying these battles together shows that Americans have a core disagreement about women’s equality with men, and the significance of sexual behavior, that has deepened over the past century,” Griffith writes. “There is an overarching divide between opposing views about the very meaning of morality.”