The Atlantic‘s Emma Green reports, “The Department of Health and Human Services announced a new office dedicated to investigating conscience objections and religious-freedom concerns in health care on Thursday.” The office, in part, seeks to protect healthcare workers who object to providing certain medical treatments, such as abortions, on religious grounds. Green writes, “Thursday’s announcement is not so much a change in policy as a reorientation of the federal bureaucracy—a signal, like so many of the administration’s moves over the last year, of who the government will side with in conflicts over religious rights.”
The Washington Post‘s Michelle Boorstein reports that several members of President Trump’s evangelical advisory group met with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday “to create a united public front in support of protecting ‘dreamers’ from deportation.” The press conference that followed was broadcast on Pelosi’s website. The evangelical leaders included “the Rev. Samuel Rodriquez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the conference; Sergio De La Mora, founding pastor of Cornerstone Church of San Diego and head of the conference’s megachurch association; Bishop Harry Jackson, a Pentecostal leader based in Maryland; and Jay Strack, a leadership speaker and Florida pastor.”
The Associated Press’ Rachel Zoll writes, “Donald Trump’s vulgar remarks questioning why the U.S. should admit immigrants from Haiti and Africa have spotlighted the bitter divide among American evangelicals about his presidency.” While some evangelical leaders such as the Rev. Robert Jeffress continued to express support, others have reacted negatively to Trump’s recent comments. Zoll notes that American connections with Christians overseas have grown in recent years through church mission projects. “As its numbers shrink in North America and Western Europe, the Christian population is exploding in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, creating ties across borders,” she writes.
The Salt Lake Tribune’s Peggy Fletcher Stack, David Noyce, and Bob Mims report that 93-year-old Russell M. Nelson has been ordained as the 17th president of the LDS Church. The former heart surgeon has shuffled church leadership, dropping Dieter Uchtdorf as a counselor in favor of Dallin Oaks. Fletcher, Noyce, and Mims write, “The church’s all-male priesthood precludes women from holding governing offices in the faith—and the new leaders offered no signs of that changing.”
The Associated Press’ Peter Prengaman and Nicole Winfield report on Pope Francis’ three-day visit to Chile, where he directly addressed sexual abuse scandals that have caused turmoil in the country and around the world. Prengaman and Winfield write, “Pope Francis met on Tuesday with survivors of priests who sexually abused them, wept with them, and apologized for the ‘irreparable damage’ they suffered, his spokesman said.” The pope’s visit has encountered controversy in the wake of the church’s cover up in Chile of a pedophile priest, who was not removed from the ministry until 2011.
NBC News’ Chris Fuchs reports, “A settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit brought by a Muslim police officer who alleged that the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) former no-beard policy was unconstitutional.” Officer Masood Syed, a Sunni Muslim, had been suspended without pay in June 2016 for refusing to trim his beard to 1 millimeter. The NYPD has since updated its policies to allow religious accommodation for beards and religious headwear. Fuchs writes, “The settlement also calls for an 18-month review period to monitor the religious accommodation process for facial hair.”
At The New Yorker, Pastor Tim Keller writes on the changing nature of what it means to be an evangelical. “In many parts of the country, Evangelicalism serves as the civil or folk religion accepted by default as part of one’s social and political identity,” he writes. “So, in many cases, it means that the political is more defining than theological beliefs, which has not been the case historically. And, because of the enormous amount of attention the media pays to the Evangelical vote, the term now has a decisively political meaning in popular usage.”
For The New York Times‘ “Sunday Review,” Amy Sullivan writes on the ways that conservative media has influenced evangelicalism—and played a role in the white evangelical support of Donald Trump and Roy Moore. “This emerging religious worldview — let’s call it ‘Fox evangelicalism’ — is preached from the pulpits of conservative media outlets like Fox News. It imbues secular practices like shopping for gifts with religious significance and declares sacred something as worldly and profane as gun culture. She adds, “Journalists and scholars have spent decades examining the influence of conservative religion on American politics, but we largely missed the impact conservative politics was having on religion itself.”
CNN’s Dan Burke writes, “Going into the Senate race in Alabama, much of the attention was focused on Republican Roy Moore’s conservative Christian base.” They did, with exit polls showing 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Moore. “But Moore lost in large part because another group of ‘values voters’ — African-American women — voted overwhelmingly for his opponent, Doug Jones. A whopping 98% of black women voters cast their ballots for Jones, giving the Democrat a huge boost, exit polls show,” Burke writes. “Black women, and men for that matter, aren’t usually categorized as ‘values voters’ in the media, which usually reserve that term for conservative white Christians. But perhaps it’s well past time for that to change.”
Yahoo News‘ Jon Ward reports from Alabama as voters go to the polls in the special election between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. He talks to a variety of voters, from a white evangelical pastor to an establishment Republican activist to a black Baptist minister. The Rev. Oscar Montgomery, pastor of Union Hill Primitive Baptist Church in Huntsville, told Ward: “There are some who refuse to believe that our vote can make a difference. There’s this prevailing belief among many that the majority are totally spiritually and morally bankrupt. Those whites, if they had an ounce of morality, would be forced to vote for Jones.”