The New York Times’s Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear report, “President Trump on Sunday pivoted away from his strident assessment of Islam as a religion of hatred as he sought to redefine American leadership in the Middle East and rally the Muslim world to join him in a renewed campaign against extremism.” Trump said of his campaign against Islamic extremism, “This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion, people that want to protect life and want to protect their religion.” On the campaign trail last year, President Trump insisted that Islam despises the United States and called for a “complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country.
Reuters’ Steve Holland and Jeff Mason report, “U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that he had come to Israel from a weekend visit to Saudi Arabia with new reasons to hope that peace and stability could be achieved in the Middle East.” Trump met separately with leaders throughout the region, among them Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Holland and Mason write, “Trump will have visited significant centers of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the end of his trip, a point that his aides say bolsters his argument that the fight against Islamist militancy is a battle between ‘good and evil.”’
NPR’s Tom Gjelten reports that President Trump has nominated Callista Gingrich to become the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. Gingrich, House speaker Newt Gingrich’s wife, was instrumental in her husband’s conversion to Roman Catholicism in 2009. Gjelten writes, “There is little sign of opposition to her nomination, but it is not without controversy. She carried on an affair with Newt Gingrich for several years while he was still married to another woman, and their relationship troubled many conservative Christians.”
For Religion News Service, Laken Litman reports, “When Mike Pence took the stage at Notre Dame’s commencement on Sunday, more than 100 students quietly got up from their seats and left.” A student organization called WeStaNDFor planned the protest in response to Pence’s policy positions, among them his opposition to gay rights and opposition to sanctuary cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration laws. Litman writes of valedictorian C.J. Pine’s speech, which occurred shortly before the walkout, “Standing feet away from Pence, he told anecdotes of experiences with Syrian refugees, called for freedom of religion and equal rights.”
BuzzFeed’s Anne Helen Petersen reports that an organization called Gateway to Grace is mobilizing Texas’s Christian community to foster loving relationships with refugees in need. Samira Page, the founder of Gateway, who is an Episcopalian minister and Iranian refugee, said, “When we talk about refugees or Muslims, it’s all abstract, but when you meet a young mom, or see a smiling child, you see: That’s a mom like me. That’s just a child!”
The New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports that a student at a private Christian school was banned from walking at her graduation because she was pregnant. Maddi Runkles, a senior at Heritage Academy in Maryland, was also removed from student council. Rick Kempton, chairman of the board of the Association of Christian Schools International, which represents thousands of Christian schools throughout the country, said, “She’s making the right choice. But you don’t want to create a celebration that makes other young ladies feel like, ‘Well, that seems like a pretty good option.’”
The Associated Press’ Darlene Superville reports from President Donald Trump’s first commencement address, delivered at Liberty University, a Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia. The school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., was one of Trump’s early evangelical supporters. “Drawing parallels to what was widely viewed as a longshot bid by Trump for the presidency, he urged the more than 18,000 graduates to fight for what they believe in and to ‘challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures,'” Superville writes.
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny and Caroline Kenny report, “Callista Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is the preferred nominee to be the next ambassador to the Vatican.” They add, “The White House hopes to announce her nomination before President Donald Trump meets with Pope Francis on May 24 in Rome.”
Heat Street‘s Jillian Kay Melchior reports on the riches of and controversies surrounding Trump religious advisor Paula White. “White rose to this prominent position despite decades-long concerns from Christian leaders, religious watchdogs and journalists,” she writes. “Those critics claim White uses her pulpit to emotionally and spiritually manipulate her congregants, who are mostly black and low- to middle-income, aggressively pressuring them to donate to the church. Congressional investigators have also looked at her lavish lifestyle, which includes million-dollar properties, fancy cars and frequent travel.”
The Washington Post‘s Fred Barbash reports that language about a Muslim ban was scrubbed from President Trump’s campaign website recently. He writes, “ABC’s Cecilia Vega appears to have been the first to notice. ‘Minutes after we asked the WH why the President’s campaign website still called for a Muslim ban, it appears the statement was deleted,’ she tweeted.” Barbash adds, “That was just hours after judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which is reviewing a district-court ruling declaring the ban unconstitutional, questioned administration lawyers about ‘statements of the president on the campaign trail.'”